The Iowa coach says his team’s poor ball movement helped lead to loss at Indiana
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — For a five-minute stretch Monday, the Iowa men's basketball team discovered how to move the basketball without turning it over.
Reserve guards Brady Ellingson and Maishe Dailey were playing the best basketball of their Hawkeye careers.
Shots were falling. There was energy on defense. A 15-point Indiana lead shrank to a single point.
College basketball games, of course, last 40 minutes. The other 35 were devoted to sloppy play by the Hawkeyes and long scoring runs by Indiana.
Ultimately, the Hoosiers handed Iowa a 77-64 setback before an announced crowd of 17,222 at Assembly Hall. It was Iowa's fifth loss in six games, and each has followed the same pattern. Opposing teams are able to put together dominant stretches of play and the Hawkeyes are helpless to stop them.
Indiana used a 14-0 run late in the first half and an 18-0 spurt in the second to keep Iowa winless on the young Big Ten Conference season.
"I think we lost track of what we wanted to do and kind of lost focus, and during those segments when we couldn't score we weren't playing as good defense as we need," Iowa forward Jack Nunge said. "It seems like once we get down, we just kind of keep getting down and we can't bounce out of those tough moments."
Ellingson scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half to give Iowa some brief life. Nunge, a freshman who played his high school basketball at Castle in Indiana, got the start and finished with 12 points.
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"We battled with them. It started with our intensity on the ball and that led to runouts and we moved the ball well on offense," said Ellingson, who hadn't scored a point in Iowa's five previous games. He also had four assists with no turnovers.
The win was the first in Big Ten play for first-year Indiana coach Archie Miller.
It came because the Hoosiers outscored Iowa 36-26 in the paint and 15-4 at the free-throw line. Forward Juwan Morgan did much of the damage, with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
"Just attacking the offensive board. That's where a lot of fouls come from," Morgan said. "Just getting in the right position and making them have to grab you and keep you off the glass. Also setting good screens. When you're setting good screens, people are just trying to fight through and knocking you off the course and the refs are calling those fouls."
The Hawkeyes (4-5, 0-2 Big Ten Conference) led 19-17 until power forward Tyler Cook picked up his second foul with 8:54 left in the first half. But Iowa had been allowing too many uncontested shots and committing turnovers.
That caught up with the Hawkeyes when the Hoosiers (5-4, 1-1) heated up, going on a 24-7 run to close the half.
Indiana turned 13 Iowa turnovers into 14 points, the most glaring coming in the final seconds of the half. Iowa was playing for the last shot and a chance to cut the deficit to 10 points when point guard Jordan Bohannon’s pass was intercepted and turned into a layup attempt by Josh Newkirk.
Newkirk’s shot rolled off the rim, but teammate Aljami Durham grabbed the rebound and put it back in just ahead of the buzzer for a 41-26 halftime lead. None of Bohannon’s teammates came back to help him play defense on the sequence.
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"That's unacceptable," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "We didn't execute and then we didn't run back."
In the second half, McCaffery was so displeased that he sat starters Bohannon, Isaiah Moss and Luka Garza, inserting Dailey, Ellingson and Nicholas Baer into the lineup in their place.
That paid immediate dividends, but not the long-term answer Iowa has been seeking in what is in danger of devolving into a lost season.
"We were trying to run a play and trying to get me the last shot for the first half and we had some guys that didn't know what we were running and it just led to a pass right to a defender's hand," Bohannon said of the most obvious of his five turnovers.
"I feel like it just was a culmination of the entire first half. I just wasn't handling the pressure well. I wasn't playing up to what I should be doing and i deserved to not start in the second half."
Iowa next plays at Iowa State at 7 p.m. Thursday.