Iowa and their fans brought an intensity to Carver that reminded us all of Chris Street’s days as a Hawkeye
The Iowa Basketball team defeated Wisconsin Saturday night, 70-66. It was fun, tense, a big win, and much more. It was, as every Hawk fan knows, the 20th anniversary of the death of Chris Street. The university did a good job of honoring him, and the fans did a better job by bringing it in a way that Carver hasn’t seen in quite some time. The team did even better, pulling out a win that I know I’ll remember forever.
First, to the game. The Hawks came out firing on all cylinders, despite not shooting the ball entirely well. But they took care of the ball, not committing any turnovers and forcing 6 on the Badgers in the first half. Wisconsin seemed to take forever to get beyond 10 points, as Iowa’s defensive intensity was nothing like we have seen this season. In that first half, Wisconsin just ran into a buzz saw. Even in the second half, Wisconsin would put together a mini-run, and Iowa would have an answer. Things got way too close for comfort late, as Iowa’s late game defense vanished once again, and Wiscy point guard, George Marshall, turned into Reggie Miller versus the Knicks. Dude could not miss, and nearly brought his team back from the dead single-handedly. But in the end, it was not their night. Fittingly, it was Iowa’s night. A much needed win for this team, for every Hawk fan that loves basketball in this state and misses an all-time great, and for the Street family.
Some random thoughts:
• Aaron White was great. Number 30 was hustling like the old number 40. And he was forcing the issue and getting to the charity stripe, making good on 13 of 15 free throws.
• Our freshmen point guards are not playing like freshmen. Clemmons and Gessell combined for 1, count ‘em, 1 turnover. That’s impressive against a strong defensive team.
• Marble didn’t do much in the first half, but came through down the stretch penetrating the ball and nailing a huge 3 to keep Iowa out in front.
• Eric May still plays too much.
• Melsahn Basabe doesn’t play enough. His dunk made me scream so loud my wife almost punched me.
• Bo Ryan is still a douche. If you want to see the best GIF ever of him, click here courtesy of Black Heart Gold Pants.
I have to vent about one thing here: shame on the Big Ten Network. At the beginning of the game they barely talked about Chris Street, but they did tell us not to worry as they would cover the halftime ceremony for those of us watching at home. What they did cover was next to nothing. Twice they showed the Street family hugging a few of the former Street award winners, but what we really got was commentary from two knucklehead announcers. And prior to that we got a bunch of highlights that no one really cared about and will never remember. Why was that necessary? How many fans watching gave a shit about any of that? The answer is, next to none. They should have showed the ceremony that honored one of the most beloved Hawks ever to don the black and gold. They should be embarrassed. If you want to see the ceremony, click here to view video posted by storminspank.
But if you want to know who did do a good job of honoring Chris, check out what KCCI’s Andy Garman put together. If you missed it, it is posted on YouTube in two sections here and here. I set the DVR when it originally aired, and the wife and I watched it together prior to the game Saturday night. My God, we balled our eyes out. I am sure they have heard it many times, but thank you to KCCI for producing and airing that special. It was so hard to watch, but it was worth every second. I hope to show that to my children someday.
The impact of Chris Street cannot be overstated. When I heard that Wisconsin was favored by a point, I was shocked. Vegas must have missed the memo on the Chris Street night, or completely ignored the factor the crowd would play in this game. The fans had their ‘sit-on-our-hands’ moments, but overall they were tremendous. But back to that note on the defensive effort in the first half: it was as if everyone was trying their best to play like Street. Everyone was out there flying to the ball, switching to help a defender, taking charges, diving for loose balls, and just flat-out outhustling the other team. Not everything went the Hawks’ way last night, but that was okay. Not everything went Chris’s way in his career either. But he was all about perseverance and using max effort to overcome adversity. And that’s just what the Hawks did. They overcame a hell of a fight by the Badgers. In the end, the Hawks got a defensive steal that sealed the victory, and made their free throws to ice it. Fitting for a night honoring Chris Street.
So what’s next for the Hawkeyes? You’d think it should be getting easier sometime soon, but not this Big Ten season. Four of the next five games will be on the road, and none of them are exactly easy. Tuesday they travel to Ohio State, before playing Purdue on Sunday. After a very winnable home game against Penn State, the Hawks then have back-to-back roadies at Minnesota and Wisconsin. With the Hawks’ Big Ten record sitting at 2-3, it’s still a time to try and survive rather than make a move. If the Hawks can win the game versus Penn State like they should, and somehow go 2-2 over those four road games, they will be in tremendous shape. Even going 1-3 would be survivable. But do not go 0-4. If you’re 3-7 in the conference, making a push towards the tourney becomes a very hard task.
That being said, the key thing to remember is that the schedule will get easier. Eventually we’ll get to play the teams that aren’t going to be in the tournament, and we better win. I’m hopeful we will, as Fran’s teams have always gotten better as the season has gone along. I’m more confident in that this year, with so many freshman and sophomores playing key roles.
But that’s the future. For now I will revel in the present and the not-so-distant past. It was a great win for Iowa, and great way to remember one of our favorite Hawkeyes. It was an effort, and a result, Chris would have been proud of. There may be no beer in heaven, but we know today there is one happy Hawkeye.