The shots stopped falling and the Iowa Energy watched a 17-point lead vanish Friday.
It was another fourth-quarter grinder for Iowa, and that has been danger time all season. The Energy entered the game with a 5-20 record when the final margin was less than 10 points.
But something was different this time. Justin Hurtt and Othyus Jeffers made big shots. The Energy made free throws. The Sioux Falls Skyforce were clanking theirs.
The result was a 107-100 Iowa victory before an announced crowd of 4,464 at Wells Fargo Arena.
“We showed really good grit tonight,” Iowa coach Bruce Wilson said.
“Getting some stops in there, getting the rebounds when we needed to get the rebounds, and they helped us a little bit at the free-throw line. But I’ll take that because we’ve had that on our own end, too, where we haven’t hit our free throws.”
But never like this. Sioux Falls (22-19) missed 12 of its 14 attempts from the stripe in the fourth quarter, an epidemic of ugliness that spread throughout the team and gave Iowa a confidence boost with each misfire.
Iowa (10-32) had its best shooting half of the season at the outset, making 10-of-12 3-pointers to take a 71-57 lead at intermission. Robert Hite made a half-courter just before the first-quarter buzzer and Alex Ruoff grazed the backboard with a corner 3 that beat the halftime horn.
It was that kind of evening.
“We shot it well in shootaround, but I don’t know. It was a good day for us,” Hurtt said after scoring a game-high 24 points. “Guys were hot today.”
It didn’t last. Iowa missed all seven of its second-half 3-pointers and watched the Skyforce pound away at the lead. Sioux Falls outscored Iowa 60-32 in the paint.
“They came out a little more aggressive in the second half. We came out, we weren’t focused and ready,” said Hite, who has been pressed into service as the backup point guard after starter Chris Wright got called up by the Dallas Mavericks this week.
Hite tore his Achilles while playing in Italy last April and didn’t return to action until this winter in Iowa. He finished with 13 points and led Iowa with seven assists and four steals.
Beating a Sioux Falls team fighting for a playoff berth wasn’t the goal, he said. Finding anything positive in a season gone awry was.
“We’re not really concentrating on being a spoiler. We’re just trying to win games,” Hite said. “It’s been a tough season for us. And being in last place, a lot of guys don’t take us seriously. So whenever we step out there we want to put our best forward.”
SIOUX FALLS (100)—Nichols 7-16 4-6 19, Davis 4-5 0-1 8, Mays 5-8 4-9 14, Thompson 8-20 2-3 21, Barrett 5-10 0-2 12, Tarver 2-8 0-0 5, Saunders 3-4 0-4 7, Davis 4-8 0-0 8, Ayer 3-5 0-0 6. Totals 41-84 10-25.
IOWA (107)—Jeffers 5-10 6-6 17, Harris 5-12 5-6 16, Famous 3-10 2-2 8, Hurtt 6-13 10-12 24, Murphy 2-4 2-4 6, Ruoff 3-8 2-2 10, Gilchrist 3-6 2-6 8, Hite 5-10 0-0 13, Strong 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 34-76 29-38.