Former Iowa guard Pierre Pierce buried a game-winner at the buzzer on Monday to lift his Hyeres-Toulon Basket professional team to an 84-82 overtime win over the Hawkeyes during Iowa's exhibition tour in France.
For those unfamiliar with the history between Iowa and Pierce, this is sort of like being engaged to the love of your life only to have them cheat on you months before the wedding...and then a decade later having them hit a game-winning shot at the buzzer to beat your basketball team.
One of the most highly-touted recruits Steve Alford ever brought to Iowa City, Pierce did not disappoint in a freshman season which saw him average 7.1 points and a team-best 3.3 assists. The trouble began after that season when he was charged with sexual assault following an incident with another Hawkeye athlete. Pierce was allowed to stay with the team, but was suspended for the entire 2002-03 season.
Pierce made a triumphant return to the court in 2003-04, when he led Iowa in scoring with 16.1 points and also ranked second in assists (3.7). Averaging 17.1 ppg, he was one of the Big Ten Player of the Year front-runners in 2004-05 before he was dismissed from the program after 20 games following his second charge of sexual assault.
Ultimately, Pierce was found guilty of third degree burglary, criminal trespass, false imprisonment and assault with intent to commit sexual abuse. He served 11 months in prison.
All this led to Monday's meeting, which was especially awkward considering that Iowa was completely unaware they would be facing Pierce.
"The opponents on this trip were scheduled by an outside agency with the task of getting competitive games,'' Iowa sports information director Steve Roe told the Quad City Times. "This team would have never been scheduled by a member of the university staff.''
Pierce finished the game with 19 points in 35 minutes, and took to Twitter afterwards to talk about the buzzer-beater.
Felt pretty good hitting my first game winner today lol wish the #hawkeyes best of luck this season and safe travels back— Pierre Pierce (@pierre_pierce) August 19, 2013
The folks at Black Heart Gold Pants were decidedly less enthusiastic about the events of the day.
Maybe what happened was inevitable from the moment when the perverse cosmic screenwriter crafting this tale decided to throw Pierre Pierce, one of the most notorious and reviled figures in Iowa basketball history, into this yarn. If you're going to drop a bomb like that, it might as well explode in spectacular fashion, right? Pierce had played for H-T in the past (in December 2012, specifically), but he hadn't played there in months; of course he would make his return to that team for their exhibition game against Iowa. Of course Pierce would go 7/14 from the field and 4/7 from long range, scoring a game-high 19 points. And of course Pierce would not just play well against his former team, but he would hit the game-winning shot, to boot. [...]
The fates are cruel. The whole story is so improbable, so implausible, so Hack Screenwriting 101, it's almost impossible to believe that it's true. The whole situation is like a direct-to-DVD sports movie -- or, rather, a Bizarro version of a direct-to-DVD sports movie, since the villain ends up winning in this story.
Not that there weren't any positives to take away from the evening.
The positive from this game is that Iowa was finally challenged by an opponent on this preseason tour, giving the players a chance to perform in tense, crunch-time situations and Fran an opportunity to see what combinations perform well under pressure. Ultimately, a game like this -- loss and all -- should be a useful learning tool for the coaches and the players. 30-point wins are fun for the box scores, but they don't necessarily do much to prepare a team for more competitive fixtures. A close game (like this one) can be much more revealing and provide a much better view of what areas Iowa needs to improve on. The fact that Iowa was able to get that experience in a situation where actual wins and losses are utterly meaningless seems like it could be useful down the road.
Iowa hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2006, but many people think the drought could be broken this season. The Hawkeyes finished 9-9 in a Big Ten Conference that was as strong as it had been in a long time last season, and return leading scorers Roy Devyn Marble (15.0 ppg) and Aaron White (12.8 ppg).