So the Hawkeyes instead leaned on their three stars; Aaron White, Devyn Marble and emerging standout Jarrod Uthoff, to hold off the feisty Irish.
White scored 20 points, Marble and Uthoff added 17 each and No. 23 Iowa beat Notre Dame 98-93 on Tuesday night.
Marble had 13 straight points in the second half to lead the Hawkeyes (8-1), who bounced back from an overtime loss to No. 14 Villanova with just their third win in 13 Big Ten/ACC Challenge games.
Marble's "run was the difference in the game," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "This is a very experienced, very well-coached team. You just didn't want it to be that quickly. ... They kept scoring, so (Marble) put us on his back in that stretch."
Uthoff made two free throws and threw down an open dunk in the final 37 seconds to help seal the win for Iowa, which scored more than 90 points for the third time this season.
Garrick Sherman had a career-high 29 points and Eric Atkins added 23 for Notre Dame (5-2), which lost despite shooting 51.5 percent from the field.
Iowa was even better from the field, shooting 56.9 percent.
Still, the Hawkeyes couldn't put away the Fighting Irish until the final second.
"Neither one of us could guard each other," Irish coach Mike Brey said. "I'm really impressed with Iowa, but I love my team. In a tough atmosphere with some new faces, new roles, we answered just about every charge. We just didn't have much at the end."
White answered a 3-pointer by Atkins by drawing contact with Sherman and converting from the free throw line to put the Hawkeyes ahead 90-83 with 1:50 left. That seemed to seal it for Iowa, but Uthoff blew an easy layup and didn't get a loose ball that Atkins put home to pull Notre Dame within 91-88.
Uthoff soon made up for those mistakes, but the Fighting Irish were still alive until White's free throw with 0.8 seconds left.
Jerian Grant had 13 points and 10 assists for Notre Dame.
The Hawkeyes had no answer for Sherman in the first half. He had 18 points, repeatedly beating Iowa's interior defense for easy baskets, and finished with nine rebounds.
"He should feel like he is a main guy. I think this will be something he can really grow from," Brey said of Sherman.
But the way the Hawkeyes were scoring, it didn't matter all that much.
Iowa shot 19 of 33 from the field -- including an 18-foot turnaround jumper from Uthoff to beat the shot clock -- and took a 52-43 halftime lead.
But the Hawkeyes were playing their fourth game in six days, and it showed at points in the second half. Sherman helped Notre Dame quickly tie it at 55-all, reaching his career high in points with 16:53 left.
But Marble kept Iowa afloat with those 13 straight points, which proved to be crucial.
Marble "really stepped up," Iowa guard Mike Gesell said. "At that point we were struggling, so that was huge for us and for (Marble). He's a guy that can step up and do that for us every night."
Hosting the Fighting Irish made for a special night for McCaffery, who owes much of his coaching career and personal life to Notre Dame.
McCaffery spent 11 seasons as an assistant with the Fighting Irish under Digger Phelps and John MacLeod, and he met his wife, Margaret, in South Bend. She scored 1,312 points for the Irish before serving as an assistant coach for Muffet McGraw.
The Hawkeyes made McCaffery a winner in his first game against the Irish while at Iowa -- though Notre Dame proved to be a tougher challenge than many thought it would be.
"This team is pretty resilient. I think that showed over how we played the last six days," Uthoff said.