Home loss to Rutgers is costly for Iowa's NCAA Tournament seeding

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — This was the loss Iowa could least afford.

Getting drubbed at home by Rutgers? That was going to leave a mark, and it did.

The No. 21 (for now) Hawkeyes dropped eight spots in the NET rankings, to 41, after Saturday’s 86-72 loss to the Scarlet Knights. It was the first Quadrant 3 loss of the season for Iowa (21-8, 10-8 Big Ten Conference).

Shelby Mast, the NCAA Tournament brackets expert for USA Today, dropped Iowa to an 8 seed in that event as a result. He had the Hawkeyes as a 6 seed just last week.

That’s some severe damage for an Iowa team that has now lost two games in a row and seemed to have lost a little bit of its swagger in the process. A win Thursday at Wisconsin would be a huge boost for the resume and confidence of the Hawkeyes, who have not least three consecutive games all season.

But that’s a tall task.

Iowa guard Isaiah Moss looks dejected after a made shot by Rutgers guard Montez Mathis (23) on Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Moss was held scoreless for the third time this season. The Scarlet Knights got hot from the field and handed the Hawkeyes a damaging 86-72 loss.

Iowa in a five-game shooting slump from the arc as teams adjust

The Hawkeyes made only 8 of 29 3-pointers against Rutgers. For a team built around good perimeter shooters, it has been a noticeable and damaging five-game slide in that area.

Iowa is 37-for-120 from the arc in its last five games. That’s 30.8 percent. And in two of those games, it’s essentially been one shooter that’s prevented the numbers from being far worse. Joe Wieskamp was 5 of 6 in Tuesday’s loss at Ohio State (his teammates were 1 of 13). Jordan Bohannon got hot late and made 5 of 9 in a Feb. 22 overtime victory against Indiana (his teammates were 2 of 16).

“I think teams are adjusting. They understand we’re a good 3-point shooting team, so they’re guarding us differently,” Iowa forward Nicholas Baer said. “The counteraction is just to go inside.”

Iowa didn’t do that against Rutgers, getting outscored 36-18 in the paint as a result.

Baer was 4-for-12 from the arc Saturday. Bohannon made 3 of 9. The other success was from center Luka Garza, who made the Hawkeyes’ initial 3, but that shot was surrounded by six misses from his teammates.

Wieskamp was 0-for-3 under relentless pressure from Scarlet Knights defenders, who extended their defense in an obvious attempt to not let the freshman beat them again (Wieskamp made a miraculous 3 to upend Rutgers 71-69 on Feb. 16). Wieskamp created some opportunities early driving, but finished with only five points, just a single free throw to show for his second half.

Shooting guard Isaiah Moss went 0-for-3 from the field with three turnovers, being held scoreless for the third time this season. All have occurred in Big Ten play. All in the past four weeks after his most productive game of the winter, a 23-point effort in a loss at Minnesota.

“It was just a weird night, shooting-wise. It happens like that, though — especially at the end the year — legs starting to get a little tired. Not to have that excuse, but it’s just what happens — especially in the Big Ten,” Bohannon said.

“They might be playing Joe a little differently now. But we’ve got to start realizing we’ve got to take that space now, that they’re going to come out on our shooters, that we can start driving and getting to the foul line,” Bohannon continued after Iowa went 24-for-36 on free throws.

“There’s times that I think there’s guys that should be taking shots and they shouldn’t be shy — like Isaiah. I think he was a little hesitant to take some shots (Saturday). And we don’t want him to be, as a team. We want him to be confident in his shot. And the same for everybody on the team. That’s when we’re best — when everyone’s aggressive on the team, when everyone’s confident in their game. And when that’s not happening, it’s going to be a rough night for us.”

Hawkeyes again let opponents get hot, one player in particular

As too often occurs with the Hawkeyes, a lack of offensive success eventually shows up on the defensive end. Iowa held Ohio State at bay early Tuesday before allowing 54 second-half points in a 90-70 loss. The Buckeyes shot 58 percent in the second half.

Rutgers missed its first three shots and had only one point in the opening 4 minutes Saturday. But the Scarlet Knights ended up shooting 51 percent for the game.

At Ohio State, it was Justin Ahrens who punished the Hawkeyes with 29 points. He had scored 30 in all previous Big Ten games.

On Saturday, it was Ron Harper Jr. dropping a career-high 27 points on Iowa, 11 more than in any previous outing. That 16-point outburst also came against the Hawkeyes.

“He got good looks early and I think he felt really good,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said of his freshman.

Clearly. It was quite a contrast to the Iowa shooters.