BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (KWWL) -- A few weeks ago the Iowa Hawkeyes were playing their best basketball of the season, but they came here to Birmingham on the heels of two straight losses and didn't want to go out in the first round like they did a year ago in Buffalo.
Despite a different opponent and location, the result was the same this Thursday night. No. 8-Iowa fell to ninth-seed Auburn, 83-75.
The Hawkeyes seemed loose out of the locker-room as they tried to punch their ticket to Saturday night.
But an 0-for-9 start from the arc put them behind the eight ball and Auburn pounced in the second half a 5-0 run behind Tre Donaldson's three and Allen Flanagan's deuce saw Iowa down 17 with just over 10 minutes remaining.
But then Iowa caught fire. Payton Sandfort scored three of his team-high 22 points and Kris Murray, who struggled early, capped a 17-4 run to pull the Hawkeyes within four points of the Tigers at 64-60.
Auburn, however, closed it out from there.
"I'm really proud of our guys with how they fought, they fought back," Head Coach Fran McCaffery said. "We got down 17, cut it to four with the ball, had a real clean look at it, kind of running our stuff, just kept attacking, so I'm proud of them for that."
Now, the Hawkeyes move on to the next chapter, but they'll do so without their entire front line of Filip Rebraca, Connor McCaffery and likely Murray.
Fran McCaffery admits that's going to be a huge challenge.