By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Very few know how it feels to be on both sides of the emotionally charged men’s basketball rivalry between Iowa and Iowa State.
Former Hawkeye Adam Haluska is among the very few because he’s also a former Cyclone.
"It's interesting," Haluska said Wednesday in a telephone interview.
Haluska played his freshman season for Iowa State in 2002-03 before transferring to Iowa where he started for three consecutive seasons, scored 1,578 points and had a 16.1 career scoring average.
In fact, Haluska is the last Iowa player to average at least 20 points per game for a season, accomplishing that as a senior in 2006-07 when he averaged 20.5 points per game.
Haluska’s decision to leave Iowa State was hard enough for Cyclone fans to accept, because in addition to being a talented player, he was also from nearby Carroll and a fan favorite.
But then a bad situation became much worse when Haluska did the unthinkable by transferring to Iowa.
His decision cut deep, and led to some hurt feelings that still probably fester more than 15 years later as the two instate rivals prepare to square off in their annual showdown on Thursday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.
Haluska is eager to watch his two former teams compete for state bragging rights, and he knows first-hand what the Iowa players will be up against at Hilton Coliseum, which is considered one of the toughest road environments in all of college sports.
Haluska enjoyed playing at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where he had lots of success, including during his junior season in 2005-06 when Iowa finished undefeated at home.
But few atmospheres compare favorably to Hilton Coliseum, where Hilton Magic has been a phenomenon for years.
“It’s kind of crazy, but you see the atmosphere and what’s going on in Ames,” said Haluska, a former shooting guard. “I love Carver to death. It’s a great shooting gym. I just think Hilton has got such an advantage, I mean they’re known nationwide. And it’s because of the energy in that place. They’re geared up. They seem to just take care of business. It’s kind of like the Breslin Center at Michigan State. It feels like you’re ten points down at tip-off. “
Haluska has been on both sides of the energy at Hilton Coliseum.
He faced Iowa in the National Invitation Tournament as a freshman at Iowa State, but the Cyclones lost 54-53 on March 21, 2003. That was also Iowa's last win in Ames.
Haluska then faced Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum as a Hawkeye on Dec. 9th, 2005, but that also resulted in a 72-60 loss for Iowa.
The 2005 game marked the only time that Haluska played at Hilton Coliseum as a Hawkeye, and once was more than enough.
“I planned on it being really bad, and it was bad,” Haluska said. “I mean every time you touch the ball, I didn’t even want family members to go to the game because I knew it was going to be a hostile environment.
“And I have nothing against their fan base. I just knew it was going to be a rough game and I was fully deserving of it. When you leave a school like that and you go to a rival, I knew what I had coming to me and I was okay with that.”
Cyclone fans booed every time Haluska touched the ball during the 2005 game.
The current Iowa players should expect similar treatment on Thursday, although, none of them are likely to be singled out as much as Haluska was in 2005 due to the unique circumstances.
“It’s fun (playing at Hilton Coliseum), but it’s better when they’re cheering for you than when I had to go back and get booed off the court,” said Haluska, who now lives in Solon. “They’ve just got a great fan base. Both schools do. But they’re going to be up for this one.
“It’s a big rivalry game for both teams. We were both battling for a four-star recruit that they ended up getting. These guys see each other on the recruiting trail quite a bit. Everybody knows it’ a rivalry and will continue to do so.”
The four-star recruit to whom Haluska referred is 7-foot Oskaloosa center Xavier Foster, who picked Iowa State over Iowa in November after a long and well-publicized recruiting battle.
Foster’s decision added another emotional twist to a rivalry that is already tied up with emotion.
That emotion was in full display after Haluska transferred from Iowa State to Iowa. He was careful not to put himself in vulnerable situations after becoming a Hawkeye.
He still had ties to Iowa State, including a younger brother who played basketball for the Cyclones, but it just wasn't the same for obvious reasons.
“It was hard for me to even go back and see him in the offseason,” Haluska said. “You get people that make comments, and I know when I went to Des Moines a few times, you’d have people come up to you a make sly remark.
“It was just one of those things where I didn’t want to get put into a bad situation where I said something I shouldn’t or do something that anybody would regret. So I just tried to lay low during that whole deal. And to be honest, I was relieved when that game was over.”
Haluska had his reasons for making the rare move from Iowa State to Iowa, but it mostly came down to the instability and uncertainty within the Cyclone program at the time.
He played his freshman season for Larry Eustachy, but then Eustachy resigned on May 5, 2003.
Eustachy’s resignation came after the Des Moines Register had published photos of Eustachy drinking and kissing females on the cheek at the Missouri house party. Eustachy said he was an alcoholic at a press conference in late April 2003 and then resigned just a few days later.
Eustachy was replaced by assistant coach Wayne Morgan, but Morgan was considered a short-team solution and only lasted two seasons.
“I still look at that place and have great memories,” Haluska said of Iowa State. “People tend to forget, there was a stretch there in the Larry Eustachy era where that was a volatile time. Wayne Morgan came in and that was really like a two-year deal and then he was out.
“There were a lot of changes in the program and I know in my heart I made the right decision. Going to Iowa State, I wouldn’t have changed anything. Hopefully, Iowa State fans know that I really liked my time there and I wouldn’t have changed the way it all happened.”
It's hard to think of players who were members of both teams.
Ames native Alex Thompson actually did just the opposite of Haluska by transferring from Iowa to Iowa State after his sophomore season in 2006.
"We had no hard feelings," Haluska said. "At some point, guys like that have got to do what is in their best interest."
As for Thursday’s game, Iowa State should have a slight edge just from playing at home, considering the home team has won 14 of the last 16 games in the series, dating back to 2004.
“When you’re playing at that team’s home arena, it’s a tough place to get a win,” Haluska said. “And I still think Carver, we ran the table my junior year, it’s tough to win at our place as well, but there especially, it’s just a tall challenge.”
Haluska said the Cyclones will have their hands full trying to contain 6-11 junior center Luka Garza, who leads the Big Ten with a 22.5 per-game scoring average.
Garza is the first Hawkeye in program history to be recognized as the USBWA Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week for his efforts in road games at Syracuse and No. 4 Michigan last week. Garza averaged 33.5 points, shooting 55 percent from the field and 78 percent from the free throw line, and 8.5 rebounds.
His 44-point performance at Michigan was the third highest single-game scoring total in program history.
“He’s got to be their number one focal point,” Haluska said.
Iowa State is led by one of the top guards in the country in 6-5 sophomore Tyrese Haliburton, who averages 16.2 points, 8.2 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game.
Iowa will counter with one of best clutch shooters in program history in senior Jordan Bohannon, who is expected to shut it down after Thursday’s game and take a redshirt.
Bohannon had hip surgery in late May and can play in up to 10 games during the first semester without exhausting his eligibility for next season.
Iowa State would be his 10th game.
“If we get those threes to knock down, we’re going to stay with those guys,” Haluska said. “And I think the longer we hand, the better chance it’s going to give us to win.”
Bohannon already has played at Hilton Coliseum once as a sophomore two years ago and he knows what to expect on Thursday. Iowa lost to Iowa State 84-74 two years ago in Hilton Coliseum.
"The minute you get there in warm-ups you've got fans heckling you, guys talking about your family members, about ex-girlfriends," Bohannon said. "It's a pretty crazy environment. But that's just something we love to be in, that's what we sign up for, playing in these types of arenas. I'm really looking forward to it."
Iowa vs Iowa State
When: Thursday, 7:01 p.m.
Where: Hilton Coliseum, Ames
Records: Iowa is 7-3 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten. Iowa State is 6-3 and 0-0 in conference play.
Series: Iowa holds a 45-27 advantage in the series. Iowa State has won the four of the last six meetings. The Hawkeyes won last year’s contest, 98-84, in Iowa City. The home team has won 14 of the last 16 in the series, dating back to 2004, with the Cyclones winning in Iowa City in 2010 and 2015.