IOWA CITY, Iowa — Tim Miles called a timeout, what with a near-capacity crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at a fever pitch after an Aaron White breakaway dunk.
Iowa, sputtering along through much of its Big Ten Conference men’s basketball opener with Nebraska, finally had sufficient breathing room, up 20 points against the team picked to finish last in the league, and with 8:08 remaining.
“Coach got in the huddle,” Nebraska guard Deverell Biggs said, “and he said, ‘What you going to do? You going to lay down and just let them bulldoze all over you, or are you going to make a statement?’”
The Huskers took the latter option.
Nebraska held Iowa without a field goal the remainder of the game, and pulled to 60-55 with 1:44 remaining on a Terran Petteway three-pointer.
That prompted an Iowa timeout and elicited a few boos from those who hadn’t already got a head start on their New Year’s Eve plans.
And had it not been for a bevy of missed bunnies, Nebraska may have had reason to celebrate, too.
“You know, I don’t know. I don’t know why,” a frustrated Miles said of the missed layups, at least 10, perhaps more. “Like I told the guys, it’s just going to make us sick watching that tape. It’s just going to make us sick.”
Said Petteway: "Man, it made me sick during the game."
What’s worse, Nebraska won’t have a chance to avenge Tuesday’s 67-57 loss to the No. 22 Hawkeyes.
Perplexingly, it’s the only scheduled game between the border schools.
“I wish we had another chance,” said Petteway, who scored a team-high 20 points and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds. “I wish we had five more minutes, but that’s how it goes.”
For a second straight game, Nebraska had a season-low point total and a season-worst shooting percentage, at 29.9 percent, and against a team ranked fifth in the nation in field goal-percentage defense.
“The game could’ve easily gone our way if we make those layups — if we make half of those layups,” said Petteway, who was 8-of-18 from the field.
“I think the ones at Cincinnati were probably in our head. This game, I think it was just not falling for us. I don’t think it was in our head this game at all. Shots just weren’t going down.”
The offensive woes came on a night Iowa, picked by many as a top-four team in the Big Ten, seemed ripe for an upset.
“We didn’t play a perfect game, but played well enough to win,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, whose team won its Big Ten opener for the first time since 2006-07. “You just put it behind you, because we’ve got 17 more."
Roy Devyn Marble scored 15 points and White had 13, but the Hawkeyes, ranked No. 5 in the nation in averaging 88.7 points, were held to a season-low point total, made only one three-pointer, and despite going to the foul line 39 times, made only 22 free throws.
Nebraska largely negated one of the Hawkeyes’ biggest weapons — their transition game — and outrebounded Iowa by two.
“Once we got back on defense and played in the halfcourt,” Petteway said, “I think that was one of our best games.”
Walter Pitchford had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Biggs, in his return from a one-game suspension, provided a spark off the bench with 12 points.
“First of all, defensively, he played the way I need Deverell Biggs to contribute to our program,” Miles said. “He did his best defensive job of the year, which is why he played more, which is why he played better.”
Biggs had four points in a 13-1 run in the first half that gave Nebraska its biggest lead, 20-14, with 9:03 remaining in the half.
But Iowa closed the half on a 16-3 run, holding Nebraska without a field goal the final 6:52. The Hawkeyes had their first double-digit lead three minutes into the second half, and seemed in control before Nebraska’s final charge.
“We came back,” Petteway said. “We just couldn’t get over the hump and make the plays we needed to get the win.”