IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa’s late-game fate has become familiar of late.
The 15th-ranked Hawkeyes fought all the way back from a 14-point second-half deficit Tuesday to lead in the final minutes, but No. 11 Indiana showed why it’ll be the only Big Ten Conference regular-season champion with an impressive 81-78 win in front of 15,400 raucous fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Peter Jok’s baseline 3-pointer to tie bounced off the rim as time expired, setting off a Hoosier celebration at midcourt after their outright championship was guaranteed at 14-3 in the Big Ten (24-6 overall).
It was Yogi Ferrell’s 3-pointer with 37 seconds left that extended the Hoosiers’ lead to 80-75, ultimately putting a dagger into the heart of what was the best home crowd all season — not to mention into the Iowa players, who hoped for a better senior night outcome.
“It sucks to lose," said Adam Woodbury, one of those five senior players honored in a pregame ceremony. "I don’t know what other way to put it in a politically correct way.”
Woodbury and the Hawkeyes (20-9, 11-6) are facing their first four-game losing streak since the final four games of the 2013-14 season.
The late-game offensive lapses have been a glaring issue in the last three, all painful losses Iowa could've won.
- Iowa led by one with 6:40 to go Wednesday against Wisconsin, but scored five points the rest of the way in a 67-59 loss.
- Iowa led by six with 4:07 left Sunday at Ohio State, and scored two points the rest of the way in a 68-64 loss.
- And Tuesday, the Hawkeyes took a 74-72 lead on Jok’s reverse layup with 4:07 left, then missed their next nine shots to melt down yet again.
“I had a bunch of good looks," said Jarrod Uthoff, who missed three shots in the final 3:18 and finished 5-of-17 from the floor. "They just didn’t go down. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
After the game, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was asked what it would take to turn this around.
“I think we already have,” he replied. “We played well. We lost to a really, really good team.”
Indiana had rolled up a 60-46 lead Tuesday with 14:32 left, but instead of folding, Iowa roared back.
It was still 70-59 Indiana with 9½ minutes left, but Iowa rode the energy of its home crowd to launch an 11-0 run to tie it on back-to-back Nicholas Baer 3-pointers.
“There’s absolutely some positives to take away from this game. They’re a great team. I thought we fought them hard," Uthoff said. "We had a lapse there at the beginning of the second half. That really killed us.”
The senior forward, though, laments losing the way it did. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
In his final home game, Uthoff finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals for the Hawkeyes. He was one of four senior starters hoping for a happier send-off. The others? Anthony Clemmons scored 14 points, Mike Gesell (seven points) fouled out and Woodbury grabbed 11 rebounds — 10 in the second half.
Ferrell’s 20 points led the balanced Hoosiers, who shot 51 percent to Iowa’s 39.
For a while on senior night, it looked like a freshman would grab Iowa's spotlight.
Christian Williams, seldom-used with 21 total minutes in Iowa’s first 16 Big Ten games, pumped in eight points after starting point guard Gesell didn’t play the final 14:28 of the first half with two fouls. Williams, a 6-foot-6 product of Decatur, Ill., wasn’t expected to get meaningful run at the point until next year, but he used his length and aggressiveness to get to the rim and the foul line (4-of-5) in nine first-half minutes.
The freshman guard scored eight first-half points vs. Indiana.
The fresh legs were also evident in freshman Ahmad Wagner, who had four points and five rebounds in the opening 20 minutes in which Indiana showed why it’s No. 4 in the country in field-goal percentage.
The Hoosiers lobbed in eight 3-pointers on 11 attempts — including back-to-back-to-back 3s in a 1:00 span to surge into a 40-34 lead after Iowa had fought back to take a 32-31 edge on Uthoff’s free throw with 5:53 left. For the half, Indiana shot 60 percent overall and led 47-41 at the break — very similar to the 45-38 lead it had in Bloomington on Feb. 11.
The pace was hot and furious on this night, as you might expect from two of the Big Ten’s top three scoring teams. Early, the Hawkeyes looked to be shaking recent monkeys off their back. Clemmons attempted Iowa’s first shot, and the result was his first made 3-pointer in five games. Gesell also swished a 3 and an 18-footer on his first two attempts, a positive sign of things to come as Iowa had been trying to find players to offset the scoring load from Uthoff and Jok.
But Iowa’s hot start cooled and it wound up shooting 42 percent for the half — the vexing overall number it hasn’t been able to top in any of its last five games.
Iowa scored 27 bench points to Indiana's 19 in the 81-78 loss. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com