CHICAGO — Complete chaos.
That’s the best way to depict the matchup between Iowa and Michigan State in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament on Friday night in the United Center.
Taking a 30-20 lead into halftime with near full control of the game, the Hawkeyes fell apart in the second half. Michigan State (25-7) shot 51.9 percent from the field after the break to defeat the Black and Gold (21-12), 59-56.
Iowa fought back late in the game — the scoreboard read 57-56 at one stage — but it was not enough.
With that, the Hawkeyes’ NCAA tournament hopes are squashed.
“We just tried to keep our poise,” Devyn Marble said of the Spartans’ comeback. “The goal was to try and limit their runs. We needed to make the plays down the stretch. They made their shots, and we didn’t.”
No players recorded double figures for head coach Fran McCaffery’s squad. Mike Gesell led the way with 9 points; Marble chipped in 8 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds.
There was a lot of emotion from McCaffery on the sidelines throughout the contest. A couple calls by the officials — Ted Valentine, Lamont Simpson, and Jim Schipper — were disputed in length by the third-year coach and booed loudly by Hawkeye fans in the stadium.
“I’ve been [coaching] for a long time,” McCaffery said. “This team deserved a better fate tonight.”
There is certainly a lot to take away from this season, though.
Three years ago, the Iowa men’s basketball team was down in the dumps.
The 2009-10 season was the worst in the program’s history, as a Todd Lickliter-led team posted just 10 wins all year. Iowa’s best win that campaign was probably against Northwestern in a half-filled Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
A lot has changed since then.
This will be second straight year the Hawkeyes garner an NIT bid, a major step in the right direction. With the loss of only one scholarship senior, Eric May, 20-plus win seasons and NCAA tournament bids seem like the norm for years to come.
Just not this March.