March 6, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Random thoughts on a Sunday morning after one of the most exciting and exhilarating and exciting March Saturdays enjoyed in many a year here in the Heartland…
Yes. You’re going to read a lot about yesterday’s thrilling 67-65 victory over No. 6 Purdue inside a raucus Carver-Hawkeye Arena. These days they call ’em “Signature Wins” and you can read about it HERE. It was a thriller for the fans who made their way to Carver and for those who watched on ESPN. It gave both yet another reason to consider the purchase of season tickets next fall if they don’t already have them. If it wasn’t obvious before yesterday, it’s obvious now: Fran McCaffery and his staff can coach, can motivate, can strategize with the best of them. It’s exciting to think about what a team with a little more depth, a little more talent and a little more experience in McCaffery’s “system” will be able to accomplish.
So, who do you think had the bigger smile when the clock struck zero Saturday: Mrs. McCaffery, Mrs. Cole or Jarryd himself? My observation is below.
Speaking of Cole, Iowa’s four-year senior was brilliant in his home finale. A team-high 16 points to go along with a team-high 10 rebounds. Cole had a smile as wide as a flooded Iowa River during pre-game. He was showered with applause by the 12,000-plus in attendance and became the first Hawkeye to see himself smiling bigger-than-life in the Hawks Nest. It was a good day to be Jarryd Cole. Allow me to correct that. It was a great day to be Jarryd Cole. And, as Jarryd has said many times in the past couple weeks…it’s been an honor for him to be a Hawk. You can read about that HERE if you haven’t already.
Guts? You want to talk about guts? I offer Bryce Cartwright. Iowa’s floor leader missed a chunk of the second half with a sore right hamstring. He left Mediacom Court with 16:32 minutes left to play and Iowa clinging to a four-point lead. He returned with Iowa up by three with just more than seven minutes left on the clock and Iowa staring at another “coulda-woulda-shoulda.” The electrifying junior then pushed that margin back to two possessions with a nice touch jumper in the lane with 31 seconds left to play. He then teamed with Matt Gatens on a shrewd coaching move that pretty much secured the win. Oh yeah, Iowa’s California kid ends his first season in the Big Ten as the league leader in assists.
Oh yeah. The Hawkeye staff can coach. Ahead 65-63 with 11 seconds left to play, the Iowa bench called for an inbounds play that went this way: Gatens was given the ball by the official and reminded, with a wave of his hand, that the baseline was his to run, if he wanted. Whistle. Game on. Teammate Bryce Cartwright stepped over the baseline into the out-of-bounds space, received a pass from Gatens who stepped in bounds where he then received a pass from Cartwright. Five seconds later, Gatens – one of the Big Ten’s best free throw shooters — was on the line dropping a pair that pushed Iowa’s lead back to four. Brilliant….time off the clock and the nearest thing Iowa has to an automatic at the stripe for a pair of freebies. Brilliant.
And, I’m – as they say – just sayin’, but I sure hope those fans of the Hawkeyes who have been questioning the talent of Matt took note of the performance of this outstanding young man from Iowa City. I mean, seriously, at least consider what the head coach as to say. I think it says it all: “It’s been like that pretty consistently. I’ve got to give him credit. I mean, I have been giving him credit because I do think it’s affected his ability offensively to make a shot or two more maybe,” Fran offered yesterday when asked to talk about Gatens’ defensive effort against Purdue’s explosive E’twan Moore. “But he has given it everything he has got, and he is really going after the other team’s best offensive perimeter player. He wants that guy, he’s going after him, he’s fighting through every screen, and that is really difficult to do from a stamina standpoint. He’s really got himself in phenomenal shape, and he just stays after it, and it seems like he could go another 40 minutes.” Need more? Examine his stat line for the game for a few seconds. It’s a pretty impressive collection of numbers. You can find it HERE.
So, who do you think had the bigger smile when the clock struck zero Saturday: Mrs. McCaffery, Mrs. Cole or Jarryd himself?
The biggest smile? Well, I glanced at Mrs. McCaffery just after the horn sounded and hers was, to no surprise, pretty wide. So, too, was Mrs. Cole’s. No surprise there. A very proud mom and rightfully so. But the biggest was Jarryd’s. Fran was asked how this team had hung tough during tough near-misses and more this season during his post-game visit with the media. He pointed in one direction: Jarryd Cole’s: “I think that’s the result of having a great captain and a great senior. Jarryd Cole won’t let this team get down. He won’t let them give up on each other or themselves. We’ve had different players at different times really struggle. Others have picked up and others have I mean, if you were at practice yesterday you would not have been surprised at what you just saw. The guys really came with the right attitude ready to work, and that’s a reflection on Jarryd Cole and his leadership and what he does in the locker room, what he says privately, because he’s got phenomenal credibility when he opens his mouth to his teammates.”
The Hawkeyes shot 52 percent from the field in the second half Saturday. They also limited Purdue to just 30 percent. Give a tip of the fedora to a Devon Archie. “I thought he was fabulous,” Fran said of the junior who had two points, a block, a steal, and three rebounds in 10 minutes of action, almost all of which coming during the final 20 minutes. “He was down there really wreaking havoc defensively, so I am really proud of him,” McCaffery added.
I’d like to offer a salute to the fans of the basketball program at the UI. Iowa’s final per-game attendance average for 2010-11 is 11,635, or a little more than 2,000 more than a year ago. That number will probably rank high nationally in the largest year-over-year increase. Congrats. You seized the opportunity to help Fran turn the program you love around and get it headed in the direction we all want it going. I also was to salute the Hawks Nest. I had a chance to have an extended visit with a member of its leadership last week. I suggested that our students have a tremendous opportunity to be difference-makers for Fran’s squad. They needed to come to the Arena in numbers, be loud, proud and, most of all, have fun. Saturday, they were and they did…big time. So, as Bob Brooks would say, a tip of the fedora to the Nest, too.
I’m already longer here than I should be, but I can’t forget to note the Iowa baseball team’s 5-3 victory over Mississippi State Friday in Starkville, Miss. Folks, they play some very, very good baseball at MSU. That’s a nice win from Jack Dahm’s squad who is now just a few weeks away from testing the new turf at Duane Banks Field. Here’s a link to the Hawkeyes’ schedule: HERE Take an afternoon and check ’em out.
Did I say it was loud and proud in Carver yesterday? It was. It really, really was. And, I might add, it was an awful lot of fun.
Lastly, Tuesday was an interesting day. SI.com shared its “extensive and exclusive” research into “Crime and College Football,” a report that had the UI’s football program No. 2 on the list of schools with most student-athletes on their 2010 roster with a record of an arrest. Of course, SI’s editorial detailed the extreme cases nationally and didn’t provide much detail, if any, behind the numbers for the teams on their “Top 20.” So, the UI provided that detail and you can find it HERE. However, it’s noteworthy to me and undoubtedly a handful of others that on the very same day a much different story appeared in the online edition of the Iowa City Press-Citizen in the form of a letter to the editor. I include it below for friends of the UI and fans of the Hawkeyes like you to read and appreciate. I suggest it tells a story about the football program at the UI that isn’t sensational enough for the national media:
Hawkeyes make memories off the field
My 3-year-old daughter, (name deleted), is a huge Hawkeye football fan. Even at her young age, she doesn’t miss watching a game.
Jordyn has Stage Four Rhabdomyosarcoma cancer. We spend a lot of time at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for her treatment or from complications that come along with her chemotherapy.
We have watched many of the games from the fifth floor café where we can see the crowd and even a corner of the stadium. Three players come up to our floor often, with no prompting of any kind, with no ulterior motives. They have no specific person to visit; they just stop by to play with the kids and put a smile on their face.
Recently, for the second time in February, (name deleted), (name deleted) and (name deleted) came to visit. They played with (name deleted). They had lunch with her, and they spent at least an hour of their time in our room just making her laugh.
The Hawkeyes have gotten a lot of bad press lately. I sometimes think that all the “good” they do sometimes gets forgotten about. Their one-hour visit made my daughter’s entire day — if not week.
These players bring so much happiness to these children, and they help turn some of the darkest moments into great memories.
If you ask my 3-year-old, she would tell you, “They are the best!”