Leistikow's 4 thoughts after Iowa's 73-53 loss at Iowa State: 'They just fought harder than us'

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

AMES — After Iowa shot 27% for the game and suffered the worst men’s basketball loss to Iowa State in series history, there was no panic among the Hawkeyes about the state of their offense.

"We just weren’t making shots," forward Patrick McCaffery said following a 73-53 loss at Hilton Coliseum, Iowa’s lowest scoring output since the 2019 Big Ten Tournament against Michigan. "Got good shots, open shots."

Fran McCaffery, the Hawkeyes’ head coach whose offense is typically among the most efficient in the country, was more concerned with what happened after Iowa’s missed shots. The offense, he says, will be fine.

The rebounding? Yikes again.

"If you’re struggling at 27%, you’ve got to go get some back," McCaffery said bluntly. "They did that, and we didn’t."

Iowa State had more offensive rebounds in the first half (13) than Iowa had total first-half rebounds. During the Hawkeyes’ three-game losing streak against Purdue, Illinois and Iowa State, they have been outrebounded by a combined 144-85. (That’s an average margin of 19.7 rebounds per game.)

What’s scary is that Iowa State (9-0) was using four-guard lineups and still outhustling and outjumping Iowa (7-3) to the ball. It’s not like there was a Zach Edey (of Purdue) or Kofi Cockburn (of Illinois) on the Hilton floor. Iowa State players wanted the basketball more and used their bodies to get it.

"Tonight, we had no excuse," Patrick McCaffery said.

Still, the Iowa shooting was off-the-charts bad. Chalk that part up as a really bad night.

After making five of its first 10 shots, Iowa missed a staggering 25 of its next 29. That’s how you turn a three-point lead into a deficit that swelled to 55-31 midway through the second half.

Said Iowa State small forward Izaiah Brockington, who scored 29 points: "We watched film, and we noticed they’d never seen ball pressure like ours. We knew we had to make them uncomfortable."

They did.

Jordan Bohannon heard lots of derisive chants Thursday.

Some can’t be printed here. But the Hilton faithful’s "one more year" chant toward the sixth-year Hawkeye senior late in the game had people here chuckling.

"I knew it was going to be a hostile environment, but … I don’t shy away from competitiveness," said Bohannon, who finished 4-2 against the Cyclones after his sixth and final Cy-Hawk game. "I tried to do everything I can to lead this team. They just fought harder than us. They did a phenomenal job on defense."

Bohannon never expected to be back here as a player again after leaving his shoes on the floor at Hilton Coliseum in 2020 as a fourth-year senior. But after a medical-hardship waiver and free year of eligibility due to COVID-19, Bohannon was back for a sixth Cy-Hawk game. He was probably Iowa’s best player Thursday, scoring a team-best 17 points. No other Hawkeye was in double figures.

This time, instead of shoes, he left praise for the Cyclones and their fans. Bohannon, 24, lauded the job T.J. Otzelberger has done to turn a team that was 2-22 a year ago into one of eight remaining unbeatens in college hoops.

"Iowa State has one of the best fan bases in the country," Bohannon said. "They’re rowdy and up into you. Iowa State has a phenomenal team this year. I’ve got to give them a lot of credit."

Keegan Murray won’t have more forgettable nights than this.

The Hawkeye sophomore, who entered as the nation’s leading scorer at 23.9 points per game and is being billed as a first-round NBA Draft pick, got the ball as expected on Iowa’s first possession of the night. He spun in the lane tossed up a shot he’s made dozens of times this season. But this one hit nothing. An air ball.

It was that kind of night for Murray, who didn’t register his first basket until 12:41 remained in the game. The 59% shooter had missed his first 10 field-goal attempts, including a fast-break dunk for the 10th that went off the back iron as he crashed to the hardwood floor.

Murray had scored 24, 25, 27, 26, 29, 23, 18 and 19 points in his first eight games. (He missed one at Purdue with a sprained ankle.) Murray was held to a season-low nine points Thursday on 4-for-17 shooting in a game-high 37:25 of playing time.

"I missed a lot of bunnies at the rim, a lot of shots I should’ve made," Murray said.

Tyrese Hunter of Iowa State relayed the defensive plan afterward: "Make him uncomfortable."

Murray was double-teamed just about every time he received the basketball. He was a role player last year. He's getting used to life as the star now against teams with excellent coaches.

"They were locked into him. He’s got to understand, he’s going to be the primary guy on the top of the scouting report every game, which is different for him," McCaffery said. " … But I think he’s in a good place, as far as continuing to believe in himself. He knows we believe in him."

Murray’s right ankle was wrapped in ice during postgame interviews. He said it hasn’t been 100% this week, but hopes to get it there with continued treatment before the Hawkeyes’ next game Dec. 18 against Utah State in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. While this three-game losing streak can’t be blamed solely on Murray’s injured ankle, Iowa will be a lot better team when he returns to form.

Jordan Bohannon led the Hawkeyes with 17 points in 31 minutes.

Three of the toughest environments Iowa will face are now in the rear view.

After the mundane roster of six opponents to start the season, things have sure picked up for the Hawkeyes. In a span of 11 days, they played at Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena (and won, 75-74), Purdue’s Mackey Arena (and lost, 77-70) and now a sold-out, raucous Hilton Coliseum in a 20-point loss.

Overall, one good, one not-so-bad, one ugly. Time to figure out the rebounding thing, flush the shooting thing and turn the page.

"I just think it was an off night," Murray said. "I don’t think there was any reason for it in particular. Sometimes, the ball doesn’t go in the hoop."

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 27 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.