Iowa men's basketball's comeback vs. Wisconsin falls short in Big Ten opener
IOWA CITY − On Saturday, Iowa men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery said there wouldn't be many surprises when his Hawkeye team met Wisconsin on Sunday. After the game, McCaffery echoed those sentiments, saying the team's 78-75 overtime loss was the type of game he expected against the Badgers.
A literal last-minute effort by Iowa forced overtime in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Then Wisconsin made just enough plays to give Iowa (7-3) a loss in its Big Ten opener.
After a rebound win against Iowa State on Thursday, the Hawkeye offense reverted back to cold shooting on Sunday − 42% from the field and 26% from three-point range. There were standout performances by Tony Perkins, Connor McCaffery and Patrick McCaffery, but not enough consistent offense throughout.
Iowa will have a lengthy break before its next game, at home next Saturday against Southeast Missouri. The break will give the Hawkeyes some much needed rest as a few key veterans are out with injuries. But the biggest area of emphasis will be placed on finding a way to break the team's shooting slump and correcting costly turnovers.
Here are a few takeaways from Sunday night:
An update on guard Ahron Ulis, and assessing Dasonte Bowen's start
Iowa announced just before tipoff that true freshman guard Dasonte Bowen would get his first career start at point guard in place of injured Ahron Ulis (hip contusion).
"He said he couldn't go (on Sunday)," McCaffery said of Ulis.
Bowen played 20 minutes on Sunday (up from three minutes against Iowa State) and finished with two points, three rebounds, four assists and three turnovers. Three of his four assists came in the second half. McCaffery didn't give a specific update on Ulis' status for next Saturday's game.
"I thought (Bowen) was solid," McCaffery said. "He made a couple of mistakes but I thought he tried to get us into our stuff and tried to guard their offense, which is not easy ... I want him to be aggressive offensively because he can score it. But he's going to be fantastic."
Hawkeyes made the comeback, but lapses in overtime cost them
The Hawkeyes shot 1-of-10 from the field from the 9:48 mark through the 0:54 mark of the second half. Down 60-55, it looked like Wisconsin would ice the game, but the Hawkeyes made a furious comeback.
Three Iowa misses on one possession and three offensive rebounds allowed Perkins to convert a layup and cut the deficit to three. Perkins forced a turnover on the Wisconsin inbound pass and found an open Patrick McCaffery for the game-tying three-pointer. Perkins held serve defensively on Wisconsin's final possession and the game went to overtime.
"The comeback was awesome," said Patrick McCaffery, who led Iowa with a career-high 24 points. "I wish we would've capitalized better."
Iowa controlled nearly all of the overtime period, holding the lead for almost four of the five minutes, but a few bad sequences on both sides of the court proved costly. On two consecutive possessions, the Hawkeyes allowed three-pointers by Wisconsin's Jordan Davis and Tyler Wahl that tied the score at 69. Both Davis (28%) and Wahl (13%) are poor three-point shooters. When placed in a position to guard over or under when Davis and Wahl were in a screen situation, Iowa played under, not fearing a deep shot. But both connected in crunch time.
Iowa also had two turnovers in the final 30 seconds, part of an uncharacteristic 15-turnover day.
Iowa still has confidence in Payton Sandfort
Sunday was another tough game for sophomore Payton Sandfort, who shot 0-for-7 from the field including 0-for-5 from the three-point line. He entered the season with expectations to perhaps be the top perimeter shooter on the team but has struggled, shooting 37% from the field and 23% from three-point range.
Fran McCaffery and Iowa players voiced confidence in Sandfort postgame and remain adamant that he will break his cold spell soon. There are no plans to remove him from the rotation, as his coach expects a turnaround.
"We're going to keep playing him and going to him," Fran McCaffery said. "I told him afterwards that I love him, he affects the game in so many ways and he's putting way too much pressure on himself. Just go out there and make plays and the shots will come. One bust-out game and he'll be fine."