In worst offensive showing of season, Iowa basketball falls in rock fight to Rutgers
Iowa basketball's Wednesday night road game against Rutgers produced the worst offensive performance of the season to date and one of the worst in coach Fran McCaffery's tenure.
Rutgers defeated Iowa 48-46 behind two late free throws by Ron Harper Jr. with 1.9 seconds remaining. The Scarlett Knights defense confused Iowa's high-powered offense throughout the game and in the second half carried a +11 rebounding margin that limited their chances to come back.
The Hawkeyes dropped to 13-5 overall and 3-4 in Big Ten play. Meanwhile, Rutgers, a surprise in the Big Ten, improved itself to 11-6 and 5-2 in the league.
"I saw really good defense," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said on Keegan Murray's foul that sent Harper Jr. to the line. "It was a really physical and hard fought game and it should not come down to that. It just shouldn't, we should be playing overtime."
A physical first half with 16 total fouls between both teams stalled rhythm on both sides. When fouls weren't called, Iowa and Rutgers' sluggish offensive execution told the story early on.
From the 14-minute mark until eight minutes remaining, only six points were scored: all by Rutgers as they took at 12-10 lead. Iowa entered the bonus with six minutes remaining but didn't make their first free throw of the game until one minute remaining before halftime by Joe Toussaint.
Toussaint stole a Rutgers pass and made a contested layup the halftime buzzer that was waved off by the officials after a review. It was a play that could've swung the momentum heading into half didn't go Iowa's way.
That's the type of game it was on Wednesday night.
Iowa offense goes cold after promising start in second half
Overall, the first half numbers illustrated their worst offensive showing of the season:
- 29% shooting from the field
- 28% shooting from 3-point range
- Only four fast-break points
Perhaps the most alarming figure was their assist-to-turnover ratio. Entering Wednesday, Iowa ranked second nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.93) and third in fewest turnovers per game (8). The first half saw only five assists to six turnovers, the majority of them careless mistakes that scuttled scoring opportunities.
The second half started with promise: A Jordan Bohannon 3-pointer followed by a Keegan Murray layup gave the Hawkeyes their largest lead of the game at 32-24 less than two minutes into the half. A Patrick McCaffery layup a few minutes later capped off a 3-for-6 start from the field in the second half but what came next was one of the coldest streaks in recent memory.
Beginning at the 13:40 mark, Iowa made only one of their next 13 shot attempts, a scoring drought that spanned for over six minutes that ended with a Murray free throw at the 7:52 mark.
Similarly to his teammates, it was a tough scoring night for the nation's leading point getter. Murray led the team with 13 points on 14 shots and completed a double-double with 13 rebounds.
Iowa bench shoots 0-for-11 vs. Rutgers
With Iowa's star player off his game, the Hawkeye bench failed to pick up the slack.
After a modest scoring output on the road against Minnesota on Sunday (12 points), Iowa's bench shot 0-for-11 on Wednesday night. Their poor shooting reflected in their minutes played, only Connor McCaffery reached double digits in minutes played.
Patrick McCaffery put Iowa ahead 41-40 with a little over four minutes remaining but only five more Iowa puts the rest of the way wasn't enough to secure the win. With 35 seconds remaining down 46-44, McCaffery tied the game with a layup but Rutgers' Ron Harper Jr. drew the deciding and questionable foul on Murray that decided the game.
A three-quarter-court pass to Murray for the would-be game winning three would not fall for the Hawkeyes.
There were positives to take away from Wednesday night: Rutgers (31%) shot nearly as bad as Iowa did. Filip Rebraca had a second consecutive strong showing with eight points and 10 rebounds, and in the first half, the Hawkeyes recent rebounding intensity showed.
There'll be few games where Iowa shoots this poorly. And if their defensive intensity shown on Wednesday can continue, the Hawkeyes will continue to see improvements through the season.
The best possible remedy is coming this weekend: a sellout home crowd against Penn State on Saturday.
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.