Leistikow: In agreement with McCaffery, not the Big Ten after wacky Maryland night
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It’s just after 1 a.m. Monday, Eastern time, as I start to type this column and, in case you missed it, a lot of crazy stuff happened during Iowa’s 91-73 loss a few hours ago at Maryland.
Fran McCaffery got ejected. The on-court play was chippy, to say the least. The Big Ten Conference made Iowa fans even madder after the game. And the Hawkeyes suffered another setback later Sunday that had nothing to do with the score.
Some after-hours thoughts from a wild night at the Xfinity Center...
Not this time. McCaffery was rightfully fed up after some painfully bad officiating culminated in Jordan Bohannon getting hacked (“four times in a matter of 5 seconds,” per the point guard) then being called for traveling with just 45 seconds left in the first half.
Mount McCaffery erupted. The coach clearly intended to get one technical foul from the crew of Bo Boroski, Donnie Eppley and Rob Riley. He didn’t want No. 2, though.
This was a message McCaffery was going to send to the Boroski crew. But he ended up getting through to his players.
“We know that he’s got our back. And we want to have his as well,” star sophomore Tyler Cook said. “Coach has always been like that; he’s always been a players’ coach. We know he cares about us. Obviously, he felt like the stuff was unfair. He didn’t like it.
“We have the utmost respect and love for him, for standing up for us.”
That was a common sentiment from Iowa players. And while he took responsibility for his actions, McCaffery also said this: "I’m going to fight for my guys. So that’s what I did."
The Hawkeyes didn’t win the game, but they did respond to their coach’s fight with some of their own. They surged to a 64-61 lead with 10:59 left … but got outscored 30-9 the rest of the way.
McCaffery had a rough three-loss, six-day stretch, which started with verbal lashings to his team and the scoreboard operator in a Tuesday loss to Michigan.
While I think McCaffery should be much more selective in his tirades, I don’t blame him for this one.
McCaffery didn’t seem to do anything significant to deserve the second T, which came almost instantly after the first. But he put himself in that position, and he got it. That’s on him, and he knows it.
Still, I certainly thought it was a fair question to ask for a pool reporter to interview the referees to learn why No. 2 was issued. My request was escalated to the Big Ten Conference, which threw up an air ball with its response:
Among the reasons: Judgment calls don’t rise to the Big Ten’s threshold for allowing a pool-reporter question, and — get this — because “typically, the request is not granted when only one side’s media is making the request.”
Make officials accountable. They often control the game more than coaches do.
Tell us why you did what you did. It’s not hard. It takes a minute with one trusted reporter picked by the home team. And it might actually make refs better at their jobs, to know they might have to answer for their (potential) errors.
As in politics, someone telling the truth (even if he or she is wrong) is more widely embraced than someone who hides from it.
Moss gets it done
One of Isaiah Moss’ best games as a Hawkeye got lost in the craziness of Sunday’s mayhem.
The sophomore guard was doing his best Peter Jok impression, carrying the Hawkeyes with a smooth outside stroke. He canned 10 of 16 shots, including 4-for-6 accuracy from 3-point-land, for a career-high 25 points in 32 minutes.
The Hawkeyes could sure use more of where that came from.
“Just being aggressive,” Moss said. “It helps seeing my first shot go in. Teammates kept telling me to keep shooting, so that’s what I did.”
When Moss gets rolling, it opens things up for others like Bohannon, who canned five 3-pointers with more space to roam.
Moss is a good player, but he could be an even better one. He's one of the few Hawkeyes who can create his own outside shot. But he too often disappears. He needs to consistently bring the swagger that he did Sunday.
What's 'D' issue?
Maryland only made 4 of 17 attempts from 3-point range. That’s a defensive improvement for Iowa.
But the Terrapins were a staggering 30 of 43 (70 percent) on 2-pointers and outscored Iowa, 56-22, in the paint.
Iowa's maligned defense, last in the Big Ten, might actually be getting worse. Opponents have scored 40 or more points in six of the last seven halves of Hawkeye basketball.
I asked Cordell Pemsl if the issue — allowing so many wide-open layups and dunks — was more about communication or effort. His answer was interesting:
“A lot of guys are working, but I think there’s that fight that we need to have,” Pemsl said. “We have to say to ourselves, ‘I’m not going to let the guy I’m guarding score.’ We can talk about help side or helping the help side. But at the end of the day, if we can guard our own man without the need for help, we’ll be in a lot better shape.”
Iowa has to fix this. Offensively, it shot 11 of 21 (52 percent) from 3-point range and 49 percent overall, and still lost by 18 points. Yikes.
Sometimes it’s better to laugh than to cry.
Iowa’s team plane was damaged at the Baltimore airport when another plane backed into it, which kept the players in the arena — better there than on the team bus — for nearly 2 hours after the game had concluded.
Another plane had to be flown in from Michigan to bail the Hawkeyes out, and they didn't return to Iowa City until around 3 a.m., Central time.
While waiting, Bohannon tweeted: “Just found out our plane got hit on the tarmac, no foul was called.”
During the delay, Bohannon and his older brother, Zach, stepped onto the Xfinity Center floor around 11:45 p.m. in dress clothes and played a game of H-O-R-S-E. Zach, a former Wisconsin player, won in an impressive display of range and degree of difficulty.
“You really think big brother is going to lose to little brother?” he cracked.
It was good to see a little levity among brothers on a wacky, frustrating night for all.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.