Iowa guard CJ Fredrick says the defense on Malachi Flynn wasn't good enough, and neither was the motion on offense, in the second half Friday. Listen: Hawk Central
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Sixteen seconds into the second half Friday, San Diego State point guard Malachi Flynn scored his first points against Iowa, on a 3-pointer launched from in front of his bench.
The Hawkeyes still led by six points at that moment, but the tide had turned for good on them. Flynn followed with an assortment of floaters, layups, two more 3-pointers and nine free throws.
The 16-point lead Iowa had built with a dazzling first-half performance was a distant memory. Flynn scored 28 points after intermission. The Aztecs carried away the championship trophy from the Las Vegas Invitational with an 83-73 victory at Orleans Arena.
“It was his show,” Iowa guard CJ Fredrick said of Flynn. “And we couldn’t stop him.”
Iowa (5-2) was a step ahead of San Diego State (8-0) in the first half, forcing 12 turnovers and turning them into 15 points. The Aztecs went on a spree in the final 3 minutes to cut the deficit to 41-32 at intermission. That ended up being an omen.
Flynn, who picked up two fouls in the first half and missed all three of his shots, took things from there.
“We need to do a better job on their star guys,” Iowa center Luka Garza said.
“In our zone, we started letting (Flynn) get down to the middle too much. They were running ball-screens and going right into the middle. Then it’s a two-on-one with me. I can definitely talk more on the defensive end, try to avoid them running into the screens.”
The Hawkeyes were fresh off an upset of No. 12 Texas Tech and carried that momentum into the early going against the Aztecs. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, who got only four points from reserve players in Thursday’s victory, was able to rest his starters extensively in the first half while building a 37-21 lead. The Hawkeyes received 19 first-half points from the bench, led by freshman point guard Joe Toussaint’s nine. Iowa got six first-half 3-pointers from six different players and made 9 of 10 free throws. No Hawkeye played more than 13 minutes in the first half.
But eventually, Iowa was going to need its star players to produce in order to hold off a talented Aztec squad. And that never happened.
Guard Jordan Bohannon was held to three points one night after putting up 20. He played 23 minutes but made only 1 of 4 shots and committed three turnovers. Playing back-to-back games for the first time on his surgically repaired hip seemed to take a toll.
“They were pressing up on Jordan and trying to get (the basketball) out of his hands,” McCaffery said. “What I could have done was let somebody else handle it, get him down the floor and try to load him up. But he likes to have the ball. He played really well (Thursday) with the ball. So I wanted to keep him in that role.”
Similarly, Iowa forward Joe Wieskamp couldn’t find his offense, making just 2 of 10 shots to finish with five points. In one telling second-half sequence, Wieskamp drove and missed a contested layup, but gathered his lone rebound of the game only to bounce his putback attempt off the rim. It was that kind of game for the sophomore.
“We tried to set them up a little bit,” McCaffery said of Bohannon and Wieskamp. “But they’re marked men. Teams are going to focus their defense on stopping them as well.”
Garza, for the first time this season, found himself in early foul trouble, picking up two in the opening 8 minutes. He sat for the rest of the first half and again in the second half when whistled for a third infraction. He had six fouls all season entering play.
“The first one was stupid. The second one was just kind of incidental. That (first foul is) the one that’s going to wear on me a little bit,” Garza said after scoring a season-low nine points in 25 minutes. “That just kind of messed up my whole game. I was in rhythm. It’s something I’ve been trying to focus on, not getting out of the game early. I’ve got to make sure I’m smarter and avoid the ones I can avoid like that first one.”
That left it up to Fredrick to carry the scoring load in the second half while Flynn and the Aztecs were taking over. He scored on two layups, a putback and a 3-pointer in one sequence while the rest of the offense was non-existent. He finished with a team-high 16 points.
“Our offense was getting a little stagnant, so I was just trying to make a play at the rim, going to the glass, doing anything I could to keep us in it,” Fredrick said.
“We stopped moving the ball. Everyone was staying in one spot. I think in the first half we were really running, and they put the press on us to stop our running game.”
It worked. Iowa was outscored 51-32 in the second half, making only 34.5 percent of its shots in the process.
Connor McCaffery added 15 points for the Hawkeyes. Toussaint finished with 13.
“We just want away from the game plan. Mistakes after mistakes. A lot of mistakes,” Toussaint said of Iowa’s second half
“We just all looked tired. Less cutting. Less screening. Stuff we usually don’t do.”
Iowa next plays at Syracuse on Tuesday.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.