The Hawkeye coach felt his players were missing open teammates in the post against Rutgers
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — There was no miracle comeback this time. Only an Iowa men's basketball team that came back down to earth in staggering fashion.
The Hawkeyes fell behind by double digits early again and were overpowered inside by Rutgers on Wednesday in an 80-64 loss before an announced crowd of 4,002 at the RAC. It was a surprisingly sluggish performance by a team that had rallied from 20 points down to win at Illinois last Thursday.
The Scarlet Knights limited Iowa to 22 points in the paint and eight made free throws, taking the motion out of the Hawkeyes' motion offense and getting just enough scoring early to hold off a late burst.
It was the first Rutgers victory over Iowa in six tries.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was asked if he thought his team matched Rutgers' physicality.
"No, I don't. Not for the game. At times," he said. "Which has sort of been the story of our season. We match everything at times. But we really haven't put it together consistently both ends of the floor, and that was evident (Wednesday)."
The Iowa forward knows it’s a trend that can’t continue
The Hawkeyes (10-10, 1-6 Big Ten Conference) got 23 points from Jordan Bohannon, 11 by Nicholas Baer and 10 by Tyler Cook. But it was still tied for Iowa's low points total in Big Ten play and put them in 13th place in the league, ahead of only Illinois.
The Hawkeyes have lost four Big Ten games by 10 or more points.
"They played us pretty physical (Wednesday), which was to be expected," Cook said after failing to get to the free-throw line for only the second time this season. "They've got a lot of guys that rotate in and out, and so they had a lot of fresh bodies on us.
"They brought the fight to us in terms of the inside battle."
Iowa led for only 1 minutes, 29 seconds, and never by more than two points.
The Hawkeyes weren’t competitive for much of the first half for a second consecutive game. Rutgers controlled the paint, and the Hawkeyes obliged by settling for jump shots repeatedly while falling behind 38-24 at intermission. Last Thursday at Illinois, Iowa fell behind by 20 points in the first half and were down 54-41 when it ended.
Bohannon hit three straight 3-pointers to end a four-minute scoring drought and put Iowa ahead 13-11. The Hawkeyes promptly responded with another four scoreless minutes and watched the Scarlet Knights (12-8, 2-5) go on a 12-0 run to take control.
"They deny a lot of passes. They're up into the ball-handlers. They were up into me most of the night trying to limit my shots, limit my penetration," Bohannon said after recording just two assists and four turnovers. "Obviously, we shot really poorly (39.3 percent). But you have to give a lot of credit to them, because they were ready to play (Wednesday) and they got after us on the defensive end."
It was the third consecutive game in which Bohannon made five 3-pointers, matching his output from a year ago here when Iowa won 83-63. Still, Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell was happy with his defense.
"We played great team defense, and I really thought we did a good job on Bohannon, even though he had 23 points. He's a really good player," Pikiell said.
Rutgers outscored Iowa 16-6 in the paint in the first half, and the Hawkeyes never got to the free-throw line. Issa Thiam nailed four 3-pointers and had 14 points at intermission.
The Scarlet Knights hadn't scored more than 67 points against a Big Ten opponent this season.
"I thought our defense was good at times. I thought our zone was good at times. Our man, we still had some issues. Our press was pretty good," Baer said. "We just can't give them second shots. I thought they really lived off of that, unfortunately."
Rutgers scored 14 second-chance points, turned 17 Iowa turnovers into 24 points and outscored the Hawkeyes 16-2 on fast-break opportunities.
"Some of them were kind of crazy, but some of them again were trying to go where there's no need to go," McCaffery said of the turnovers, a recurring problem for his team. "We've got to manage the clock better. I thought we missed some guys in the post. They were aggressive on the ball. They were aggressive defending the post. So we had some guys I thought were open, didn't throw it. Maybe we throw it a little bit late.
"They capitalized on our live-ball turnovers. They scored in transition aggressively. We try to do that typically and we weren't getting anything from our running game."
Iowa returns home to host No. 3 Purdue at 11 a.m. Saturday.