AMES, Iowa — The Iowa basketball team actually handled that legendary Hilton Magic pretty well Thursday night, especially when you consider the way the Hawkeyes had been playing.
But they still couldn’t make their turnover problem disappear.
The Hawkeyes handed the ball over to the opposition 18 times for the third consecutive game and struggled to contain Lindell Wigginton and Nick Weiler-Babb in the second half in going down to a hard-fought 84-78 loss to Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum.
Wigginton tossed in 24 points and Weiler-Babb collected 15 points and 10 assists to lift the Cyclones to their sixth consecutive victory.
Iowa lost for the sixth time in the past seven games and although it probably played a little better and a lot harder than in those previous defeats, the Hawkeyes didn’t find much solace in that.
"The effort was there," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "The execution wasn’t there at times."
Forward Nicholas Baer figured the Hawkeyes (4-6) did show improvement.
"This was one of our better games we’ve played, but when you lose you don’t feel that way, especially against an instate rival," he said. "A six-point loss is still a loss. We’re looking for real wins, not moral wins unfortunately."
The Hawkeyes thoroughly dominated the boards, outrebounding the Cyclones 53-31 and had a respectable 44.6-percent shooting night that included 11 3-pointers.
But those turnovers continued to rear their ugly head, especially at key moments of the second half. The Cyclones scored 28 points off turnovers in the contest with 21 of those coming after halftime.
"You look at the stats — 53 to 31 on the glass — you’re supposed to win," McCaffery said. "But 12 turnovers in the second half. ... We never really got into the kind of rhythm we had to."
Iowa actually held a 41-36 lead at the half and was still hanging onto a 57-56 edge when back-to-back turnovers led to two easy baskets by backup center Cameron Lard sandwiched around a 3-point field goal by reserve Terrence Lewis.
After Iowa cut the margin to 66-63, Maishe Dailey and Tyler Cook threw the ball away on consecutive trips down the court, leading to 3s by Donovan Jackson and Wigginton, inflating the ISU lead to 72-63.
"They really executed off of our turnovers unfortunately," Baer said. "We did a good job in the first half being able to make plays for each other and really sharing the ball. But when you get consecutive turnovers like we did in the second half, they really feed of that, especially in this environment."
The Hawkeyes, led by Cordell Pemsl, continued to fight and got the gap down to three a few more times, the last time when freshman Jack Nunge scored inside with 28.3 seconds to go.
But two free throws by Hans Brase with 0:27.2 showing, followed by a free throw by Weiler-Babb with 0:14.4 to go and a breakaway layup by Wigginton in the final seconds, finished things off.
"We just stuck together and we did it together," Weiler-Babb said.
"We’re getting there, but there’s still a lot of things we can improve on," he added. "We gave up 20 offensive rebounds. We need to work on that."
ISU coach Steve Prohm agreed that his team (now 6-2) is "growing up."
"Like Nick said, we’ve got a long way to go," he said. "We don’t have our identity yet but we’re taking steps. It’s a growth process every day with this team."
Jordan Bohannon hit five of 10 3-point attempts and led Iowa with 19 points. Freshman Jack Nunge had perhaps his best game yet, scoring 16 points and reaching career highs with eight rebounds and four assists.
"We had two really good practices leading up to this game so we knew we were ready to play," Bohannon said. "You saw that in the first half. We were really moving the ball, we were getting it down low and kicking it out and getting a lot of open 3s. I was able to get some shots off and get going a little bit.
"It’s just that five-minute stretch we had in the second half that was hard to come back from."
Pemsl also played exceptionally well in the second half and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, but in the final minutes he went crashing into the bleachers behind the basket while pursuing a loose ball.
"He’s on his way to the hospital to be evaluated," McCaffery said following the game. "It looked like maybe it’s not as bad as we initially thought. He ran into a chair, took a big chunk out of his leg. Hopefully, it’s not broken."