Offense, defense, rebounding all reverted to early-season form against Indiana, the coach says
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Iowa basketball team of November resurfaced in March, and it was just as unsightly as it was untimely.
Four months of progress on the defensive end disappeared while Indiana scored at will Thursday in a 95-73 victory in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament at the Verizon Center.
The 10th-seeded Hoosiers (18-14) made 19 of 28 shots (67.9 percent) after halftime to end the Hawkeyes’ four-game winning streak and stall any talk of an NCAA Tournament berth. It was the fourth consecutive opening-game loss in this tournament for Iowa (18-14), a seven seed.
“We were staring at the ball, which is what young teams do. They don’t see what’s going on away from them,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of his team’s defense. “And so whether we were man or zone, we weren’t connected. There wasn’t the communication that you need.”
Indiana made the Hawkeyes pay with 12 of 20 3-point shooting as well as 46 points in the paint. The Hoosiers outscored Iowa 52-33 in the second half to turn a close game into a rout.
The Hoosiers advance to face second-seed Wisconsin at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Iowa, suffering its worst loss in two months, returns home to learn a postseason fate that almost certainly includes the National Invitation Tournament.
It was the eighth time Iowa allowed 90 or more points this season. Four of those outings occurred in the first eight games.
“I thought we weren’t as aware as we needed to be, especially in the zone,” Iowa forward Nicholas Baer said. “I think, more than anything, they were able to get out in transition and get open shots.”
The Hawkeyes were led by 24 points and 10 assists from point guard Jordan Bohannon. Cordell Pemsl added 14 points and 11 rebounds. Both are freshmen who recorded their first double-doubles.
But there wasn’t nearly enough help for the rookie duo. Senior guard Peter Jok, the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 20.2 points per game, was held to nine points on 4-for-11 shooting. Baer scored his only points on a late 3-pointer. Tyler Cook was hampered by foul trouble and notched eight points in 20 minutes.
"NIcholas had a very uncharacteristic game for him. I don't remember him having a game like this in two years," McCaffery said. "If he's not making 3s, he's usually very effective. He was a little bit sideways (Thursday) for some reason."
Indiana ran out to a 29-19 lead but the Hawkeyes responded in the first half, cutting the deficit to 43-40 at intermission. When the Hoosiers went on a 19-4 run early in the second half, Iowa had no answer.
The Hawkeye freshman talks about the Hoosiers' streaky offense and a disappointing loss
“When they started hitting shots, it kind of took us out of rhythm. We wanted to get the ball and go, and they were doing a great job of keeping us contained,” Pemsl said. “When you’re not hitting shots, it forces you to play defense for longer periods of time. And we had guys tired.”
The Hoosiers took their biggest lead at 95-64 on a dunk by Freddie McSwain Jr. before going the final 2:40 without scoring. They easily could have surpassed the century mark for the sixth time this season if they had wanted to.
Bohannon said Indiana’s long-range prowess wasn’t merely a result of poor Iowa defense.
“When a shooter gets a first open look and they make it, regardless of whether there’s a hand up or not, they’re going to keep making it,” Bohannon said. “It starts from the beginning of the game. They hit a couple open 3s, so they got their confidence going. And you saw they were hitting some contested 3s as well.”
Iowa had won seven of 10 games heading into the tournament, overcoming a 3-5 start to the season to kindle some hope of a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Indiana had lost seven of its final 10 games to erase memories of early-season triumphs over Kansas and North Carolina.
The teams were like two roller coasters passing in the night Thursday, both ending up where they began four months ago. Indiana can get back into the NCAA Tournament picture with a Friday victory — the exact scenario Iowa was wishing for when the week began.
“It’s really disappointing knowing how far we’ve come these past six, seven games. We didn’t start the season how we wanted to. We lost some games we thought we should win,” Bohannon said. “It’s really unfortunate that we came out the way we did (Thursday).
“We’re looking at playing in the postseason regardless, so we have to be happy about that.”