Hawkeye loss looked a lot like last year; they get quick chance to prove otherwise

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

EAST LANSING, Mich. — There’s really only one goal for the Iowa men’s basketball team this week, after a destructive 90-68 loss at Michigan State on Monday.

To prove that the 2018-19 version of Hawkeyes is truly different than last winter’s 14-19 team.

Those fears had seemed to be answered during a 6-0 start to the season. But everything about Monday’s loss felt like a repeat of last year.

A common sight from Monday's game: Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman gets a layup, this time over Iowa's Joe Wieskamp. The Spartans scored 48 points in the paint and walked away with an easy 90-68 win.

The No. 10 Spartans imposed their will on No. 19 Iowa, making 31-of-60 shots (51.7 percent), including anything they wanted near the basket. A 23-3 run to start the second half turned a manageable deficit into a laugher.

Even the postgame comments from the Hawkeyes echoed those from a year ago.

“We didn’t expect things to go perfectly the whole year. It’s a hiccup,” junior forward Tyler Cook said after leading Iowa (6-2, 0-2 Big Ten Conference) with 15 points in 37 minutes. “It doesn’t change the way I look at this team.”

“It’s going to happen to anyone. Not everyone is perfect as a team, so you’re going to have your lapses, you’re going to have your adversity,” junior guard Jordan Bohannon added.

“I think any team from top to bottom (of the Big Ten) this year can beat any team by 20, can lose to any team by 20. We just have to come out every night ready to fight back.”

It is a tough league. And Iowa’s going to have to be a lot tougher to avoid a repeat of last year’s 4-14 finish in regular-season play.

The Hawkeyes have to wait a month for another shot at a conference opponent (Jan. 3 at Purdue). So all attention turns to Thursday’s 7 p.m. home game against Iowa State. It’s the only power-conference opponent on the schedule between now and then. That means it’s the only chance in the next four weeks for Iowa to prove Monday was indeed just a hiccup.

Bohannon and Cook, the leaders of the team, don’t believe the Hawkeyes lost any faith in themselves after their first poor performance of this season.

“We lost. S--- happens,” Cook even said, using a dismissive vulgarity.

It does if you let it. And Iowa sure let it happen Monday.

Spartans show teamwork that Hawkeyes have been missing

Michigan State had an incredible 28 assists on its 31 successful field goals Monday. It served as a reminder of something that’s been lacking for Iowa all season — ball movement.

The Hawkeyes had 13 assists against 11 turnovers, continuing a trend in that category. The season-long numbers now stand at 112 and 109, nearly a standstill. Which is what happens to the offense too often.

Bohannon, the team’s starting point guard, has been held without an assist in Iowa’s back-to-back losses, to Wisconsin and Michigan State.

He has been looking to shoot more, Bohannon said after scoring 11 points on 4-of-12 accuracy. But he’s also aware of the numbers, and concerned by them.

“I know I need to do a little better job of trying to get guys open,” Bohannon said “I know it goes both ways. When everyone’s working as five, it’s tough.”

Backup point guard Connor McCaffery leads the Hawkeyes with 27 assists and has only seven turnovers.

A good opening segment that didn't last; and some free-throw success

Iowa did make five of its first eight shots Monday to briefly claim a six-point lead. It appeared that the Hawkeyes were ready to handle the environment at the Breslin Center, where 14,797 fans greeted them in their first road game of the season.

Those first four minutes were the highlight, though.

“I thought we were moving the ball. I thought we took good shots,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Then we had a stretch where we had a few bad possessions in a row. They got up into us pretty good. And we had some late-shot-clock, long-jumpshot situations that really aren’t high percentage, and they run on your misses really well.”

The Hawkeyes made just 16 of their final 56 shots (28.7 percent).

“I was honestly surprised I got a look to start off the game, knowing how physical they were from the get-go,” Bohannon said after his 3-pointer opened the scoring for the Hawkeyes.

“I knew they were going to be physical on me. It’s Michigan State at Michigan State. You’re not going to get a lot of calls on the road.”

Iowa actually did get some calls, attempting 30 free throws but making just 20 of them.

The ability to get to the free-throw line was one positive statistic for this year’s team that continued Monday. The only one.