Iowa misses another chance at defining win vs. No. 23 Syracuse

Chad Leistikow

NEW YORK — Adam Woodbury wishes he could do it over again.

His team down one with a chance at the winning shot Friday, the Iowa junior center stood on the right baseline and tried to whip the basketball to cutting teammate Aaron White under the basket.

Intercepted. Another Hawkeye heartbreaker. No. 23 Syracuse 66, Iowa 63.

And that's how the Hawkeyes concluded their 2K Classic appearance at Madison Square Garden — with two losses in two nights.

"It sucks," Woodbury said. "There's no going around that."

Akin to a quarterback missing the open receiver, Woodbury made the incorrect read. He had Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa's top offensive threat on this night, open behind the opposite 3-point line.

"I made a play I shouldn't have. I should have hit Jarrod for the 3," Woodbury said. "That's something I've got to learn from."

Syracuse's Chris McCullough stepped in front of White, who helped lead Iowa's charge back from a 15-point deficit, to pick off Woodbury's pass. McCullough was fouled with 8 seconds left and drilled two free throws to give the Orange a 65-62 lead.

"I think it was a good call," White said. "They just read it, and we had to make the necessary read. And we weren't able to do that."

Syracuse chose "foul" in NCAA basketball's oft-recurring foul-or-defend scenario with a three-point lead, and Iowa's Mike Gesell made 1 of 4 free throws — the final miss being intentional — in the final seconds.

And the story of Iowa basketball the past two-plus seasons — close losses — reared its ugly head again.

How ugly? Close your eyes on this stat: Iowa has lost its last seven games, and 11 of its past 12, decided by single digits.

"We played with great energy," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "Really managed the game well, I thought, and put ourselves in a position to win. I think that's a big step for us."

On Thursday, Iowa led No. 10 Texas by 12 points late in the first half and got overpowered in the final 24-plus minutes of a 71-57 loss.

On Friday, the Hawkeyes trailed 52-37 with 11:38 remaining.

But unlike the Texas game, they fought back. White's dunk with 3:34 capped a furious 21-6 rally to draw Iowa within 59-58.

"We had a couple opportunities to fold, and we didn't," McCaffery said. "We kept coming."

Pepperdine comes to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday. The Waves don't offer the kind of RPI-boosting opportunity that Texas and Syracuse did.

"Coming back from a 15-point deficit with 12 minutes to go is really something," said Uthoff, who led Iowa with a career-high 20 points. "We showed a lot of heart. I'm a little upset we came up short, but we have to learn from it and move on."