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Wednesday, December 07, 2005
 
Bite-Sized UNI Thoughts, Vol. I
This UNI recap was getting a little out of hand, so I decided to break it down into more digestible pieces.

First, let's engage in some much-needed damage mitigation. Losing sucks, losing to an in-state rival sucks even more, but losing on the road to a legitimate Top 25 team is not the end of the world. It just affirms that we're probably more in the 15-20 range than the 5-10 we were inching toward. The collective reaction around here seems to be "The sky is falling!" or "Here we go again..." Would it be the same if we lost at Wake Forest, or at Boston College (who both rate much closer to UNI in more objective statistical measures than they do in the actual polls)? I highly doubt it. By the end of the season, this game will still be "one that got away," but a little distance will make it look like much less of a disaster.

Second, what's much more important right now than the outcome of this game is the health of Jeff Horner. If you didn't see the game, Jeff collapsed on the court while chasing Ben Jacobson around a screen. His knee gave out on him when he tried to push of his left leg. Jeff was able to limp off the court, but he missed the rest of the game. The Register reported today that Jeff has a torn posterior cruciate ligament (that picture on the left should look familiar) and will be out 2 to 5 weeks.

I'm no doctor, but the ten minutes of reading I did on the PCL suggest that Jeff damaged the ligament(s) on the play where he fell on his knee after driving to the lane and getting fouled (which happened a couple minutes before he finally left. This of course raises the question why he was back in the game a minute later, but it sounds like Jeff told the staff he was OK to go). Since the PCL keeps the femur from moving too far forward, his knee was now de-stabilized to a certain extent, which resulted in it giving out when he tried to push off of it when chasing down Jacobson. Keep in mind that this is an extremely amateur observation.

How did the injury affect Iowa in this game? For starters, Jacobson caught fire as soon as Horner left. Jeff and Adam Haluska were doing a great job of shutting Jacobson down through the first 36 and a half minutes of the game. Horner left the first time after making his free throws at the 3:30 mark of the second half. On the next trip down, Jacobson did a nice Moses impression when he cut between the parted Grant Stout and Eric Coleman on the left wing. The two big men stepped toward each other to seal off a trailing Mike Henderson, who could only watch as Jacobson nailed a three. Next trip down - Horner is back in, guarding Jacobson. He fell to the floor, grabbing the knee, leaving Ben open for another easy three. Next trip down - Henderson back on defese....Jacobson dribbles Henderson into a Coleman screen, then hits from the top of the key. And within the span of 65 seconds, a 5 point Iowa lead turned into a 2 point deficit. I gotta hand it to Jacobson, that was really impressive.

Once we got into overtime, it was pretty clear that the offense was running without it's leader. The first two offensive possessions consisted of passing the ball back and forth on the perimeter until someone felt open enough to brick a three. Two of the next three trips resulted in Henderson going one-on-one and attacking the basket. Sure, it worked, but I'd rather not rely on Mike to be the go-to-guy at the end of games. Our offense will definitely miss Horner's playmaking while he's gone.

Your thoughts on Horner's value to the team? Leave 'em in the comments.
Comments:
Benny J is an amazing player. Jeff Horner guarded him well. He did not do it alone. When Benny went off, MH had no help on the back screen like Horner was getting all night. When Benny got those open looks, it wasn't just because somebody couldn't guard him (except when you shouldn't be in the game physically). Where was the help at? Once he got hot, everyone collapsed opening the door for Crawford to drive a spike in it! This is what the Panthers do. We will miss our floor general, but our defense shouldn't falter a bit and if MH or T-Free play like they have something to prove, chances are we will do fine in his absence.
 
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