IOWA CITY, Iowa - Four Iowa Hawkeyes played all 45 minutes of the UI's inspirational 70-60 overtime victory Sunday over Michigan inside a frenzied Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but none were better than sophomore Jake Kelly.
The lanky off-guard from Carmel, Ind., who has assumed Iowa's point guard responsibilities because of a groin injury that has sidelined Jeff Peterson, was absolutely brilliant in the Hawkeyes' second overtime win of the 2009 Big Conference season.
With the game knotted at 56-all after regulation, Kelly scored seven of Iowa's first nine points in the extra period to give the Hawkeyes a commanding 65-58 lead with 2:17 left to play. A little less than two minutes later, Kelly closed the Hawkeyes' scoring with a pair of free throws that pushed the home team's margin to an insurmountable 70-58.
Kelly's line on the stat page - a career-high 23 points, a career-high nine assists, eight rebounds, two steals and only two turnovers - is huge..but not as huge as his heart and determination.
"He willed this team to victory," declared former Hawkeye Bobby Hansen on the Hawkeye Radio Network.
"What can you say about the job that Kelly did with the basketball? Amazing. Just amazing," he added.
"He was really tough...made a lot of great decisions. He was in charge, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. Jake did a great job. He wasn't alone, he'd tell, but Jake and all our guys were really in tune defensively," said UI Head Coach Todd Lickliter.
"I'm getting more comfortable at the point but there's plenty for me to work on," Kelly said after his heroic performance.
"It was the energy of our fans that carried the four of us. It's amazing what that means to us and we appreciate it."
Freshman Matt Gatens chipped in 16 points, a total that included timely free throws in both regulation and ovcrtime, and two blocked shots, one in overtime that pretty much closed the door for good on the visiting Wolverines.
"This was just a terrific job by Iowa. They had new life in overtime and they were not to be denied. The crowd was terrific, it provided this young Hawkeye team the energy to get this win," added Hansen.
The win was Iowa's 14th victory in 2008-09 and gave the University of Iowa a sweep against the University of Michigan on Sunday: Lisa Bluder's squad defeated the Wolverines earlier in the day in a game played at Ann Arbor, Mich.
Hansen said Iowa was the better conditioned, tougher team on Sunday.
"They grew up today," he said of his alma mater. "This was a big win for a team that is young and a program that is rebuilding. Huge. Big. Something special."
"I'm proud of them. I've been proud of them all season," added Lickliter.