Iowa basketball team can't hold up to physical Louisiana, falls 80-71 in Caymans opener
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — The Iowa men's basketball team flew all the way to the sunny Caribbean, only to face its first cold slap of reality this season.
Louisiana went straight at the Hawkeyes from the opening tip-off of the teams' Cayman Islands Classic quarterfinal and never let up in an 80-71 victory at John Gray Gymnasium.
After three relatively easy home victories over weak opponents, Iowa was slow to react when Louisiana got physical, suffering through a first-half scoring drought that essentially sealed the verdict.
"When your offense is sputtering, your defense has to be at its best, and it was not," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of a first-half stretch in which the Hawkeyes scored one point over 9 minutes, 6 seconds.
Louisiana outscored the Hawkeyes 48-26 in the paint, relentlessly punishing Iowa for every defensive lapse.
"Went right at them," 6-foot-6 Louisiana forward Bryce Washington said after making all six of his field goals and finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds. "The only way to neutralize size is to have contact, don't be afraid."
Isaiah Moss led Iowa (3-1) with 24 points, coming to life in the second half as the Hawkeyes tried to overcome a 24-point hole. They never got closer than nine.
Louisiana had built a double-digit first-half lead in its season opener at Mississippi, only to lose 94-76. Ragin' Cajuns coach Bob Marlin said he reminded his players of that at halftime. He also noted that that game was played before 8,302 Rebels' fans, a stark contrast to the 300 or so who showed up to root on the Hawkeyes in a relatively quiet gym Monday.
"They were on us pretty good. But we just didn't finish at the rim. (Monday), we finished buckets," said Marlin, whose team shot 30-of-61 from the field against Iowa (49.2 percent).
Jordan Bohannon added 21 points for Iowa. No other Hawkeye reached double figures in scoring. Centers Luka Garza and Ryan Kriener, along with reserve guard Maishe Dailey, shared the team lead in assists — with two each. Garza had zero points, along with starting forward Ahmad Wagner and backup guard Brady Ellingson.
"I don't think I played with the right mentality today," said Garza, a freshman who had been averaging 13.3 points and nine rebounds. "On a different day, I could do much better against that team. Credit to them, they were really aggressive driving down to the post.
"They did a good job of boxing me out trying to keep me off the glass. I've just got to be more aggressive, play harder."
Iowa had one of its worst first halves ever. Louisiana (3-1) went on a 21-1 run to bury the Hawkeyes, who couldn’t shoot from the outside (they missed their first eight 3-point attempts) and kept turning the ball over when trying to go inside (10 in the first half led to 12 Ragin' Cajun points).
Louisiana led 37-17 at intermission, with Iowa’s starting five accumulating only seven of those points. Iowa’s backcourt of Bohannon and Moss were a combined 2-of-13 from the field. They went 11-of-20 in the second half.
The Hawkeyes also made 19 of 22 free throws after intermission to try to rally from a 44-20 deficit. An Iowa team has never overcome more than a 23-point hole.
"The second half was better. I thought we got some activity out of our press. We rebounded better. We got to the free-throw line," McCaffery said.
Iowa next plays South Dakota State 11 a.m. Tuesday in the consolation bracket of the tournament.