Hawkeyes after another Big Ten flame-out: 'It wasn't surprising'

Chad Leistikow

Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff walks off the floor after a 67-58 exit against Penn State at the Big Ten Tournament.

CHICAGO — Fifth-seeded Iowa flamed out of the Big Ten Tournament yet again, and Fran McCaffery helped light the fuse.

Of course, so did lackluster second-half defense. And the 26.3 percent shooting.

Not to mention the gritty guys from Pennsylvania wearing blue.

The Hawkeyes blew an 11-point second-half lead to 13th-seeded Penn State, which clawed back for a shocking 67-58 upset Thursday at the United Center.

"This kills. I want more than anything to be playing tomorrow and the next day," said Iowa senior Aaron White, who recorded his fifth consecutive 20-point game with 21 points and added 13 rebounds. "It really hurts, especially as a senior and playing as well as we have."

The Hawkeyes had won six in a row, the program's longest Big Ten winning streak in 28 years, and were an eight-point favorite to land in Friday's quarterfinals against fourth-seeded Purdue. They were up eight points at halftime.

Then, Iowa's worst second half in months happened.

Penn State, a team that went 4-14 in the Big Ten, scored 48 points in the second half after 19 in the first. Only Iowa State (52 points) has lit up the Hawkeyes for more offense in a half this season.

"It wasn't surprising," Hawkeye center Gabe Olaseni said. "You should expect to lose if you play the way we did."

After Iowa took a 32-21 lead early in the second half on Mike Gesell's three-point play, the Hawkeyes missed 10 consecutive shots, giving Penn State some life.

The Nittany Lions' lead was 42-40 when McCaffery was issued a game-changing technical foul with 7 minutes, 46 seconds left. The fifth-year Iowa coach got rung up after contending that Penn State's Brandon Taylor goaltended an Adam Woodbury shot that sat on the rim.

Asked about it afterward, McCaffery replied, "I can't talk about the technical foul. You should know that."

Said Woodbury: "I've got to respect his decision to get that technical. It wasn't his fault we got beat, it's all on us."

Penn State turned the "T" into a four-point possession — two free throws and a jumper by Big Ten scoring leader D.J. Newbill, who scored 11 of his 18 points after McCaffery got dinged for the second consecutive game.

Soon, the Nittany Lions were ahead by nine, 52-43, and Iowa's time was running out.

"He got the two technical (free throws), so when he sees the ball go in the hole he gets a little bit of confidence," White said of Newbill. "And then they rattle off seven straight."

Iowa rallied with a chance to tie, but Jarrod Uthoff's fade-away jumper with 59 seconds left misfired.

"It felt good, it just wasn't good," Uthoff said. "I'm pissed I didn't make it."

Now, instead of making a potential Big Ten Tournament run into the weekend, the Hawkeyes (21-11) get a full week between games, at minimum.

Sure, they'll hear their name called in a few days on Selection Sunday, but this one qualifies as a bad loss.

It was one year ago that Iowa was KO'd by an inferior Northwestern team on the first day of the Big Ten Tournament and relegated to a First Four NCAA Tournament game in Dayton, Ohio. Iowa is now 2-9 in this event the last nine years, including 2-5 under McCaffery.

"We felt like we had the capability to win this tournament," Gesell said. "It's tough going home after the first game. Now we're going to get ready for the tourney. From now on, it's win or your season's over."