By John Bohnenkamp
IOWA CITY — The 84-79 loss to Michigan had just a few minutes of fermentation before Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon was ready to cast it away.
And really, there isn’t a lot of time for the Hawkeyes to stew on the second half of Thursday’s game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena — the easy looks that led to stunning misses, the sudden cramping of the legs of their leading scorer, the control of the game by the Wolverines, the furious finish that fell short.
So, here’s what was next for the Hawkeyes — a night of rest, a mid-morning practice, and then a flight to Ohio State for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Buckeyes.
“I know the team is going to stay positive,” Bohannon said. “We’ve been through so much this year, it’s hard for me to imagine that a game we let slip away is going to (affect) our team.”
A little while later, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was asked about whether the Hawkeyes really were positive thinkers.
“Yeah, why would they (be down)? No reason for them to do that,” McCaffery said. “They’re a positive group.”
McCaffery has always talked about the play-who’s-next attitude of the Hawkeyes, a professionalism that can carry a team through the crucible of February, when wins and losses have a magnification of 10 just because of the time crunch of a dwindling schedule and the looming monster that is March.
So, turning around and playing a game 39 hours after a loss is maybe something the Hawkeyes need.
“Any time you’re able to get past a loss quickly … this is the Big Ten, you’re going to have to fight through adversity any time,” Bohannon said.
They’ve done it before. Almost everybody on this team was in Columbus last season when the Hawkeyes had a 73-57 win over the fourth-ranked Buckeyes just a couple of days after getting scalded by Michigan in a 79-57 loss in Ann Arbor.
“That was a big game for us,” Bohannon said. “Some would argue that was one of our bigger ones.”
It’s a good lesson to draw from, although the atmosphere of the 18th-ranked Buckeyes’ home will have a lot more teeth to it than the emptiness of the 2021 season.
The Hawkeyes, 17-8 overall and 7-7 in the Big Ten, have stacked victories, but would like to add some wins that have a bolder font on their postseason resumé, and Thursday’s game against the Wolverines could have provided that.
Instead, all of their misses that led to Michigan’s 7-0 run that broke a 50-all tie and kept the Wolverines in front the rest of the game took care of that.
Keegan Murray, Iowa’s brilliant sophomore forward, missed two free throws.
Then he missed an open 3-pointer, followed up by a missed layup on a putback.
Patrick McCaffery missed an open 3-pointer.
And then Murray missed inside, and missed the putback.
Meanwhile, Michigan was making everything at its end — the Wolverines were 12-of-16 from the field to start the second half — and the Hawkeyes couldn’t stop the slide.
The Hawkeyes missed three dunks — Murray had two — and missed seven free throws. You can’t squander points, certainly not in February.
“At the end of the day, we missed a lot of bunnies around the rim that we normally make,” said Murray, who had 23 points. “If you think about it, if we don’t miss those bunnies, we have a chance to win the game.”
Murray went down twice with frightening grabs of his legs caused by cramps, he said, that he rarely has.
He missed more than five minutes of the second half, yet was back in time to have a good look at a 3-point attempt with 17 seconds left that could have tied the game.
“It shows,” Bohannon said, “what a fighter he is.”
The Hawkeyes had fight — down 12 with 3:25 to go, they were able to get the game to the point where Murray could have that shot.
“We were right there,” Bohannon said. “We could have folded down 11, and we pushed it back to a one-possession game.”
Fran McCaffery recited the numbers of what got away.
“Yet we kept coming,” he said.
Michigan coach Juwan Howard said the same thing.
“You’re not giving Iowa enough credit,” Howard said. “Iowa’s tough, man. They’re relentless.”
Murray, whose emotions are always in a straight line, didn’t waver even in the post-game lament.
“In the Big Ten, you’re going to lose games,” he said. “That’s just the nature of it. You’ve just got to get past it and move on.”
Bohannon talked about the metrics of getting to March, Quad-1 wins and all of that stuff.
“We’ve just got to stay positive,” Bohannon said. “It’s my job, Keegan’s job, (guard) Connor (McCaffery’s) job, to keep the team level-headed. We still believe our team is an NCAA tournament team.”
The calendar feels a little tighter now. A quick turnaround, then, isn’t so bad.
Photo: Iowa’s Keegan Murray goes in for a layup in Thursday’s game against Michigan. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)