Short-handed Hawkeyes go cold, suffer humbling loss at Nebraska

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

LINCOLN, Neb. — Down to eight available scholarship players and another starter lost to injury, Iowa knew it needed to find a way to survive and beat the Big Ten Conference’s most beatable team.

But the Hawkeyes had an off night.

And Nebraska was good enough to capitalize for a 76-70 victory Tuesday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Iowa has lost four straight here, often in a most unthinkable fashion.

This time, the Hawkeyes lost behind inexplicable inaccuracy from 3-point range. They finished 4-for-33 from deep. That's 12.1%.

To make matters worse, they only attempted five free throws to Nebraska's 26.

“Obviously could have had a big night if some shots were falling," said Iowa's Joe Wieskamp, who went an uncharacteristic 1-for-10 from 3-point range. "But it was just one of those nights.”

Iowa shot 2-for-19 from 3-point range in the first half; 2-for-14 in the second. It was consistently bad.

“We settled a few times in the second half ... without really working the ball," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "But I always tell the guys if you’re open, shoot the ball. I want complete confidence. I thought we had a couple looks in that second half where we shot them as an afterthought. You don’t shoot those. You move those, especially with time on the clock."

Nebraska, ranked No. 153 nationally in's metrics (by far the lowest in the Big Ten; Iowa was No. 20), was 10-for-26 from long range and took advantage of Iowa's lack of a closer late. The Hawkeyes sure could've used senior guard Jordan Bohannon, out for the season with hip surgery, on this night.

Iowa fell to 10-5 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten with No. 14 Maryland coming to Iowa City on Friday night.

Fred Hoiberg-coached Nebraska improved to 7-8 and 2-2. The Cornhuskers made Luka Garza, the Big Ten's leading scorer, work for every one of his 16 points. They wanted to make someone else hurt them.

"The guys bought into the gameplan and believed in it," said Hoiberg, the former Iowa State and Chicago Bulls coach. "We really tried to pack the paint. We felt our only chance of winning the game was to sit two or three bodies in the paint at all times and then close out to the shooters."

Still, Iowa had plenty of open looks but couldn't hit them.

Iowa played without third-leading scorer CJ Fredrick, who was ruled out of the game with a stress reaction that could linger for a while.

With the sharpshooting freshman out, Iowa had trouble finding a consistent path to points.

Especially when Wieskamp, fresh off a 23-point outing against Penn State, was missing open 3s.

Wieskamp missed three 3-point tries in the game’s first 88 seconds and went 0-for-6 from long range in the first half.

Things got worse before they got better. Just 2:33 into the game, McCaffery was assessed a technical foul with Iowa in a quick 7-0 hole. He seemed to be upset about a non-foul call on Nebraska.

The Hawkeyes misfired on 16 of their first 17 3-point attempts, but what might have been more alarming was the frequency at which they were gunning from deep as Nebraska sagged into its zone defense.

“If they’re going to play the way they were, you’ve got to keep shooting," said Connor McCaffery, who tied a career high with three 3-pointers; the rest of the team shot 1-for-26 from deep. "Weezy’s 1-for-10, what are you going to do?”

Eventually, Iowa pounded the ball inside to Garza (whose 18 rebounds as part of his ninth double-double tied Adam Woodbury for the most boards in the 10-year McCaffery era). Even so, Iowa trailed 38-31 at halftime, thanks to the Cornhuskers draining seven first-half 3-pointers — most of them without much contesting. Haanif Cheatham hit three of them without a miss and finished the first half with 13 points.

Thorir Thorbjarnarson took over in the second half and wound up tying a career high with 17 points.

Wieskamp eventually hit a 3-pointer on his eighth try, with 12:41 remaining, to give Iowa its only lead at 51-50. The sophomore scored a team-high 21 points but attempted 23 shots (his previous career high was 15), as the help from teammates waned late. After Wieskamp's lay-in cut Nebraska's lead to 62-61 with 4:34 to go, Iowa scored just one point in the next 3:20.

Joe Toussaint finished with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists as he, Wieskamp, Garza and Connor McCaffery (nine points) played at least 34 minutes each.