BY SEAN NEUGENT
IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa’s men basketball team couldn’t find a way to pull out a win when it slipped to Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks 72-67 on Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It was the nightcap contest in the annual Hawkeye Challenge.
Iowa (4-4) had won 24 of the 25 tournament titles and is now 49-2 overall in the tournament. The last time the Hawkeyes were defeated was in 1985 when they lost to Arkansas State 66-62 in the first round.
In the first half, Iowa senior guard Justin Johnson shot lights-out and helped the Hawkeyes to a feast of three balls. Johnson drilled three from behind the arc within the first 10 minutes to help Iowa go on an 11-2 run with 8-minutes, 28-seconds left in the half. With 4:47 left, Johnson had a four-point play when he made a three while being fouled and hit the latter free throw.
With 7:07 left in the half the Hawkeyes had a 13-10 run that was capped off by sophomore guard Dan Bohall’s buzzer-beating trey. With a few seconds to go senior center Seth Gorney faked a three, then assisted a wide-open Bohall on the other side of the arc.
The three-ball worked well for the Hawkeyes, who shot 11 in the first half, making five (45.5 percent). They finished the game making 9 of 22 (40.9 percent).
Johnson went 4 of 8 from downtown and had 15 points and five rebounds at intermission. He finished the game hitting 6 of 15 from behind the arc and 8 of 18 from field goal range as he had a double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds.
Iowa freshman guard Jake Kelly had six assists at half but was hit with early foul trouble — as was Bohall — with three apiece. Kelly ended up fouling out with 59 seconds remaining in the game. Junior guard J.R. Angle later switched in with the guards and had four points on the game. The Hawkeyes took a 31-22 lead into halftime.
Iowa started off on fire to begin the second half. Freshman point guard Jeff Peterson (who was held scoreless in the first half), scored eight early points in the first 4:30 which included two from downtown.
The Hawkeyes flew out of the locker room and went on a 10-3 run as Peterson had the hot hand with eight points to begin the half. After that, momentum favored the Warhawks the rest of the game.
With 15:31 remaining the Warhawks went on a 16-7 run of their own to put the score at 48-41 in favor of Iowa. Louisiana-Monroe senior guard Jordan Payne — who was also held scoreless in the first half — matched Peterson with two treys as he put up eight points during the run.
The Warhawks went on another run of 14-7 and tied things up at 55, led by senior guard Lance Brasher. With 2.6 seconds left to go, Looby was fouled by Brasher as he went to the charity stripe for two. Looby missed both as Louisiana-Monroe took a full-court shot that rattled off the rim to send the game into overtime.
“Second half just killed us with leaving them open defensive wise,” Johnson said.
“We made a few shots and that obviously helped,” Louisiana-Monroe head coach Orlando Early said. “We wound up shooting 50 percent in the second half compared to 37 percent in the first. We got some key stops at some opportune moments despite not rebounding the ball well, but during that run, we made some key rebounds when they missed shots.”
In what was an exciting overtime full of three’s, the Warhawks proved to be too much for the Hawkeye squad when junior guard Tony Hooper — as well as senior guard Jonas Brown — hit a combined 12 points from behind the arc as Hooper recorded nine points to Brown’s 7.
“They had to make the big shots, and my hat goes off to them,” Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter said. “We extended our defense and over-helped and they made the plays. We now need to work more diligently and intelligently until we get to the point where we are a better team.”
The dagger in the heart was the Warhawks’ near perfect overtime shooting when they went 5 of 6 (83.3 percent) from the field and 4 of 5 (80 percent) from three point shooting.
Johnson, who had a quiet second half, took the majority of shots for Iowa as he was fouled twice from behind the arc. He made 2 of 3 his first trip but was 1 of 3 his second time. Johnson hit two from downtown and had nine of Iowa’s 12 overtime points.
“Really I believe they just went in the second half and said they will stick to me,” Johnson said. “My team did a pretty good job of trying to get me open but we just couldn’t come up with the win.”
Once again Iowa had trouble with turnovers, which turned out to be costly. The Hawkeyes recorded 29 turnovers to Louisiana-Monroe’s 14. The Hawkeyes hit the boards hard and won the rebound battle 43-26, led by Looby’s 12.
“It’s a mental game,” Johnson said. “So we just have to be mind-strong and physically strong. It is a mind game we have to be strong with the ball and I think we will work more on that this week.”
“It is very obvious that you cannot win a game with 29 turnovers,” Lickliter said. “It’s very hard and difficult to lose; we just need to work harder.”
Coach Lickliter’s message to the players after the game: “Keep your heads up we have to work hard tomorrow,” Johnson said. “The game is behind us and cannot do anything about it, we have to go out and work hard.”
In the first game of the Hawkeye Challenge, the Rice Owls (1-4) defeated Eastern Illinois Panthers (1-5), 55-49. With the loss, Iowa will remain at home tomorrow for the consolation round against Eastern Illinois with an 8:05 p.m., tipoff.