Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon pointedly says the team wasn’t ready to play at beginning of Monday’s game.
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — It was a damning statement, and Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon hopes it’s not becoming a pattern for his basketball team.
“Some of us weren’t ready to play (Monday), myself included,” Bohannon said after the Hawkeyes had a lengthy first-half lull and were never able to overcome it in an 80-71 loss to Louisiana in the quarterfinals of the Cayman Island Classic. “I just couldn’t get anything going. I was getting really frustrated with myself.”
Iowa couldn’t shoot at the outset of Monday’s game at quiet John Gray Gymnasium. Then the Hawkeyes couldn’t hang onto the ball. Then they stopped playing defense.
Iowa missed nine consecutive shots and committed six turnovers, while the Ragin’ Cajuns went on a 21-1 burst and took a 37-17 halftime lead. Only twice in Hawkeye history have they been able to turn around a disadvantage that big.
Monday was not to be the third.
“The mindset we had wasn’t what it needed to be. A few guys missed some shots and then relaxed on defense as well,” said Iowa guard Isaiah Moss, who scored 22 of his career-high 24 points in the second half.
Moss said the players could sense that their energy was lagging.
“We could all feel it,” he said. “We were all taking to each other, trying to encourage each other.”
For Bohannon, it was too reminiscent of Iowa’s previous game, an 85-74 home win over Grambling State in which the Hawkeyes trailed in the second half. It was little consolation to Bohannon that Louisiana is a much tougher opponent.
“They’re a really physical team, but I don’t think anything compares to the Big Ten,” Bohannon said, warning of the conference challenge that lies ahead.
“Last game and this, we’ve got to come ready to play. There’s spots in each of those games from the beginning that we could have broken it open and went up by 10 easily if we would have made some shots, got some stops. The second half (Monday) is how we need to play each and every game from now on.”
Bohannon finds his offense
So what went right in the second half for Iowa? It started with Bohannon.
The sophomore point guard saw his first 3-point attempt spin out of the rim and was clearly surprised. He missed his next four shots as well, and he uncharacteristically turned the ball over three times before finally getting a 3-pointer to fall late in the half.
He made six of his nine shots in the second half, including three of four from the arc, with only one turnover. And he played the entire half until Iowa coach Fran McCaffery subbed him out for Brady Ellingson with 25 seconds left.
It was a rugged experience for Bohannon, who was hounded from one end of the court to the other by an athletic Louisiana guard group.
“We set a lot more ball screens. I know Coach wanted to do that. And obviously they’re guarding me 90 feet from the basket trying to wear me down the best they could,” Bohannon said. “But any time you see a guy coming out that far, we need to start setting ball screens for myself or anyone who’s bringing the ball up. I think that opened my game a lot and I was able to penetrate a little more and try to find some open guys.”
Bohannon finished with only one assist. It will be worth keeping an eye on how much stamina he has left for Iowa’s next two games — at 11 a.m. Tuesday against South Dakota State and Wednesday with a time and opponent to be determined.
Sophomore shooting guard Isaiah Moss says Iowa must be ready to face physical teams from here on out.
Moss gets it going, too
Moss also was frustrated by his first-half efforts. The shooting guard missed five of his six attempts and knew he needed to make an adjustment.
That meant driving the ball more, especially with Louisiana getting in foul trouble. Moss scored 10 of his 24 points at the free-throw line without a miss.
“Shots weren’t falling, so I knew I had to switch it up, do something different,” Moss said. “So I tried to drive, create more.
“We picked it up a little bit. A few shots fell down. J-Bo made a few shots. I went to the free-throw line a lot.”
Moss has scored in double figures in each game this season.
Garza not a force on the boards
Compounding Iowa’s first-half shooting woes was an inability to rebound the misses. The Hawkeyes misfired on 20 shots in the opening 20 minutes, and got only three of them back.
“We were getting good shots. You've got to recognize when it's not going in the first crack, you've got to get a second and third, get a putback. You can get into your press if you want to. Stop the bleeding," McCaffery said.
“It went from seven to 18 (-point deficit) pretty quick.”
Freshman center Luka Garza, who had eight offensive rebounds in the first three games, had only one Monday.
That in part is why he played only 3 minutes in the second half. He was held scoreless for the first time in his young career.
“You want to be out there. You want to help,” Garza said. “But the guys he put on the floor could help this team, and it’s not a situation where I disagree with Coach at all. He thought the groups he was throwing out there were the best to help us win and obviously I respect that and he’s right. But (Tuesday) I’m going to come out and make sure I’m in that group.”
Garza was hardly the only Hawkeye post player who didn’t make a deep impression Monday. Strong forward Tyler Cook made the opening basket of the game, but had only two more. Small forward Ahmad Wagner also failed to score.
Cordell Pemsl had four first-half points but attempted only one shot after halftime. He did lead the team with eight rebounds. Ryan Kriener earned a lot of playing time with his aggressive play but fouled out with three points.
“They did a good job doubling Cordell,” McCaffery said. “They were pressing up on Tyler. We had it at the rim a couple times and missed.”
The Hawkeye freshmen was disappointed in his play, understands why he sat on the bench
Big minutes for Nunge, Dailey
McCaffery used freshman Jack Nunge and sophomore Maishe Dailey as his wings for a long stretch. The two were particularly effective in the Hawkeye press as the team cut the 24-point deficit to nine.
Dailey had four points and two assists in his 17 minutes.
Nunge scored nine points but also committed four of Iowa’s 15 turnovers.
McCaffery said he’s asking a lot of the first-year player.
“Jack just needs to get more and more experience, not only to get more confidence, but to truly understand where he has to go, because we’re asking him to know three positions,” McCaffery said. “He’s at the point of the press. He’s at the back of the zone.”
Nunge sprinted to the rim for a pair of offensive rebounds and also had Iowa’s most impressive play in the game when he converted a Bohannon alley-oop into a 3-point play at the end of the first half. Nunge had to power through a pair of Ragin’ Cajuns to get to the ball and to get it into the basket.
Where do they go from here?
McCaffery has a reputation for blasting his players when they don’t perform well, but he was actually calm for much of Monday’s game. It’s a young squad, and he said afterward that his goal is to explain things to the players, not scream at them.
“You can’t play the blame game if your team doesn’t play well. You have to take responsibility as a coach when a team loses,” McCaffery said. “Ask them questions, ‘What do you think you could have done differently?’ And see if you can get them thinking that way so that when you’re in the same situation in the future, you’re behind and you’re trying to come back, they’ll know what to do.”
McCaffery will find out quickly how much of a lesson his team learned from its first defeat. South Dakota State was in the NCAA Tournament last year, is 3-2 this year, and has a bona fide star in 6-9 junior forward Mike Daum.
Hawkeye coach felt his team was taking good shots