By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The No. 14/15 University of Iowa men’s basketball team escaped, but regardless, the Hawkeyes moved to 6-0 in the process.
Iowa withstood two potential game-winning field goal attempts in the final seconds to defeat Pittsburgh, 69-68, in an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game Tuesday night on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes had a one-point lead with Tyler Cook at the free throw line with 10 seconds remaining. Cook missed both free throws, giving the Panthers a chance.
Freshman guard Noah McGowan grabbed the rebound, drove the floor, and missed a contested layup. Pitt’s Sidy N’Dir grabbed the offensive rebound and put up a last-second attempt, but it caromed off the mark.
The loss was Pitt’s first of the season, dropping the team to 6-1.
“I am happy we were able to come out with the win,” said senior Nicholas Baer. “When you look at how we performed in the first half compared to how we played in the second half, I am proud of our second half.
“We came out in the second half and were able to make adjustments and be able to keep them out of the paint and make big stops at the end.”
Iowa won despite tying a season-low with a 36.5 field goal percentage. The Hawkeyes countered by making a season-high 12 3-pointers and 19 free throws (in 28 attempts). Pitt was 8-of-13.
After shooting 61.3 percent and scoring 46 points in the first half, Pittsburgh made just seven field goals and shot 29.2 percent over the final 20 minutes. The Panthers finished with a 47.3 field goal percentage for the game, but scored just 22 of their 68 points in the second half.
“We struggled in the first half,” said freshman Joe Wieskamp. “We gave up 46 points; we can’t allow that. We had many defensive lapses; they were getting a lot of layups and shooting a high percentage. Coach got on us at halftime and we took it and tried to improve in the second half.”
Wieskamp led the Hawkeyes, posting his first career double-double. He finished with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting and 11 rebounds. Baer scored 16 points and junior Jordan Bohannon added 12.
After trailing 46-40 at the break, Iowa came out of the locker room with added intensity in the second half. The Hawkeyes forced Pitt turnovers on its first two possessions and scored the first four points off a Luka Garza layup and two Cook free throws to cut the deficit to 46-44 to force a Pittsburgh timeout.
Wieskamp followed with a 3-pointer, giving the Hawkeyes a 47-44 lead with 18:01 to play.
“That was a critical part, and it had a lot to do with our confidence moving forward for the rest of the half,” said McCaffery.
QUOTING HEAD COACH FRAN MCCAFFERY
“I wasn’t real pleased with our performance in the first half on a number of different levels. We weren’t battling the way we need to battle against a team of this caliber. I’ve been impressed with this Pitt team on film. I was impressed with them live; they are quick, they compete, and we had to adjust.
“We had to adjust personnel and we had to do some things in the second half, and when I challenged them at halftime, in a very direct way, they responded and I’m proud of that.
“They scored 22 points in the second half. We slid our feet and battled on the glass. We got to the floor, and we fought. When you win a game like this, it’s a great feeling in the locker room because it certainly was not a thing of beauty by any means, but that’s how games are sometimes.”
SENIOR STEPS UP
Trailing 58-53 in the second half, Iowa got a spark from its lone senior.
Baer gave the Hawkeyes life, draining two 3-pointers in a span of 25 seconds, giving Iowa a 59-58 lead. After Pitt’s Xavier Johnson put the Panthers up 62-59 with a 3-pointer with 7:52 remaining, two Baer free throws made the score 62-61 and his 3-pointer with 6:06 left gave the Hawkeyes a 64-62 lead.
“He works hard every day,” said Wieskamp. “He has been a leader for us, so it’s good to see him have that big of a game and be that big of a spark. That was a big reason why we won this game.”
Baer scored 14 of his season-high 16 points in the second half, including a stretch of 11-straight in a three-minute span.
“That was a lot of fun,” said Baer. “Any shooter that comes out in a slump; I wasn’t shooting the percentage I wanted to. It was nice to get out there and hit a couple of shots and see a few go through, then you continue to shoot with confidence.”
- Iowa forced 17 Pittsburgh turnovers, including 12 in the second half.
- The game was back and forth, featuring nine ties and 14 lead changes.
ON THE HORIZON
Iowa returns to action Friday, hosting No. 22 Wisconsin in the Big Ten opener. Game time is set for 7 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court.