IOWA CITY — The players were barely off the court Monday night at the Breslin Center in East Lansing when panic began to set in among some Iowa basketball fans.
The Hawkeyes had just suffered their second straight loss and were never remotely close after halftime in a 90-68 blowout at the hands of Michigan State. With another tough game coming up against a good Iowa State team, there was a lot of “here we go again’’ hand-wringing on social media.
However, there is no evidence of that sort of mindset among the Hawkeyes themselves as they prepare for tonight’s 7 p.m. clash with the Cyclones at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
In fact, the most frequently uttered phrase in the Iowa camp on Wednesday was: “It’s a long season.’’
“You’re going to face some adversity,’’ junior guard Jordan Bohannon said. “It’s a long season.’’
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said it’s just important for his team to learn from what happened at Michigan State, where the Hawkeyes (6-2, 0-2 Big Ten) missed 19 of their first 20 shots in the second half to turn a moderately competitive game into a total rout.
“You don’t want to be unrealistic,’’ McCaffery said. “You’ve got to accept defeat, and you shouldn’t feel good about it. None of us did. But you don’t want that feeling to linger and say, ‘OK, let’s go back to work and try to sort out what things were good in that game.’’’
Nicholas Baer, the Hawkeyes’ only senior, said it’s just a matter of “understanding nothing is as good as it seems and nothing is as bad as it seems.
“You’re 6-0 and everything is great and now you lose a couple and people are down,’’ he said. “That’s the nature of the beast. That’s the way it is. We understand that. We have some veteran guys on this team so it’s nothing new. But we have a chance against Iowa State to turn the tide and get back to our winning ways.’’
Baer said he actually likes the fact that the Hawkeyes have only a few days between games.
“Sometimes I think if you have too much time to lament on it then it can become poisonous,’’ he said. “Michigan State wasn’t the performance we wanted but we play again Thursday and there’s not too much time to think about what happened at Michigan State because we have a really good opponent coming in here. We just have to flush that one and get ready to go.’’
The 18th-ranked Hawkeyes could go into the game without freshman Joe Wieskamp, who suffered a sprained right ankle in the second half at Michigan State. Wieskamp did not do anything on Tuesday and McCaffery said he planned to see what he could do in practice Wednesday.
“It’s getting better,’’ he said. “There just isn’t a lot of time between games. It would be better if there was a little more time.
“It’s not broken,’’ he added, “so that’s good news.’’
If Wieskamp can’t go, McCaffery said Baer likely will get his first start of the season.
Iowa State (7-1) has had its share of adversity this season, too. Lindell Wigginton, its top returning scorer, has played in only one game because of a foot problem and Solomon Young, another returning starter, has not played at all.
Cameron Lard and Zoran Talley were suspended for the first seven games of the season and just returned to action Monday in a victory over North Dakota State.
With Lard and Young out, the Cyclones have used a smaller lineup and it has worked out well. Coach Steve Prohm said this week he sees no reason to change.
“We don’t have any tricks up our sleeve,” he said. “We’re comfortable with what we’re doing right now. It’s been really good for us.”
Even without Wigginton, McCaffery said the Cyclones are a handful.
“They present challenges,’’ he said. “They can go big if they want to now with some guys back, but they can also go small, play four guards. Anybody can take it off the glass and go. So you know, they’ve got drivers, but they’ve also got shooters. But most importantly, seemingly it’s an unselfish group.’’
He and his players admitted there were some lapses defensively at Michigan State. The Spartans outscored the Hawkeyes in the paint 48-20. In fact, Iowa has been outscored in the paint 120-60 in the past three games.
“It’s a long season …’’ McCaffery said, invoking the phrase of the day. “You can’t get too down. You’ve just got to keep grinding with it, and if you overreact to a difficult loss, there’s nothing productive going to come out of that, and you try to keep your guys on path to continue to be hungry and want to get better.’’