IOWA CITY — Tim Miles stared straight ahead at the black and yellow carpet as the postgame celebration carried from Carver-Hawkeye Arena and echoed inside the tunnel. He held his suit jacket over his arm, and stuck out in a pink button up and red tie against the yellow and white concrete.
Two hours ago, Miles’ team burst through this tunnel early for pregame warmups through smoke intended for Iowa’s run-through. It seemed like a sign that Nebraska — after a 74-72 loss at Maryland — was bursting with urgency to right the season’s wrongs.
Instead, No. 24 Nebraska couldn’t crack Iowa’s zone, couldn’t rebound and couldn’t come away with a road win it needed, falling 93-84 to No. 25 Iowa.
“I didn’t think we played with as much urgency as Iowa,” said Miles, disappointed and frustrated.
The loss is Nebraska’s third on the road in the Big Ten and fourth on the year. The Huskers dropped to 1-3 in the conference and 11-4 overall. The win was Iowa’s first in the Big Ten this season, and Nebraska’s rival improved to 12-3.
Isaac Copeland was Nebraska’s instigator for much the game thanks to a 3-2 zone Iowa implemented that took James Palmer out of the game for the first half. NU’s leading scorer was held scoreless for 18 minutes.
But the Huskers attacked the high post, where Copeland went to work. He scored 10 in the first half and finished with 24 points and six rebounds.
Iowa, meanwhile, attacked Nebraska’s bigs on offense, scoring 16 of its first 27 points in the paint. That also led to two early fouls on Copeland and Isaiah Roby, three on Tanner Borchardt. All sat for most of the second half, which threw Nebraska out of rhythm.
The Huskers were able to keep it close, thanks to six points in the final three minutes of the half from Palmer — he finished with 20. But the game changed when Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon, in 3.8 seconds, got an inbound pass and found enough space to launch a 30-footer at the buzzer that banked in. Iowa took a 44-40 lead at the half.
Before that, Bohannon hadn’t made a shot. He’d make four more 3s in the second half.
“He’s just a very good player,” Miles said. “Very good perimeter player.”
Nebraska dropped into a 1-3-1. Though it caused seven turnovers, Bohannon found gaps and drilled open long-range shots. His second-half 3s all kept Iowa ahead by at least eight points. His final 3 put the Hawkeyes up 83-75 with two minutes left.
And when Bohannon did miss, Iowa dominated on the glass. It outrebounded the Huskers 40-31, turning 12 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points.
Offensively, Nebraska struggled against the zone, shooting 4 for 23 from 3-point range. Most were rushed late in the shot clock, and most Miles wasn’t particularly pleased with.
“I didn’t love our zone attack,” Miles said. “Anytime you’re not going to make 3s, or you don’t take 3s, you’re gonna struggle.”
Said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery: “We knew we were gonna change defenses, we knew we were going to run the ball, we knew we were going to have to guard them off the dribble, we knew we had to fight them off the glass, knew we had to drive it and push it and try to get it into the bonus both halves. We were just in their space.”
In a tight Big Ten race with two teams who needed a win, Sunday was a fight. After a particularly hard foul in transition, Copeland had to be separated from Bohannon just before a media timeout. Referees stopped play to halt jawing from Nebraska guard Nana Akenten and McCaffery.
“There was times when we showed fight, but there was times when we didn’t,” said Copeland, who sported a cut on his lip afterward. “Just look at where we are right now, 1-3 in the Big Ten. We set high expectations, so we gotta work and get better.”