IOWA CITY, Iowa – What started out so promising ended in the same misery Iowa has endured all season. It’s been that kind of year.
A pair of shots by the team’s two best players during the final seconds were off the mark Saturday at Carver-Hawkeyes Arena. When the last one fell harmlessly to the court, Indiana had handed the Hawkeyes their fifth loss in a row, this one 84-82.
Coach Fran McCaffery said Iowa got what it wanted out of its last possession. Trailing by two with nine seconds left in regulation, he called a timeout.
The Hawkeyes looked inside to Tyler Cook, but the defense surrounded him. Jordan Bohannon wiggled free for a three-pointer that was off the mark. Then Cook’s put-back off the offensive rebound failed to go through the hoop.
Iowa players held their heads, some standing, others falling into a crouch. This one hurt, a lot. They let it slip away.
The Hawkeyes squandered a 13-point first half lead built on the back of them making their first 10 field goal attempts. Indiana shaved its deficit to three points at halftime. It then built a 13-point advantage of its own nine minutes into the second half.
Iowa recovered, giving itself a chance late, but another second-half run did it in. It yielded a 15-0 spurt after halftime in a 79-64 loss at Indiana Dec. 4.
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“We didn’t bring the toughness that we had in those last 10 minutes (of Saturday’s game). We didn’t bring it when we were up 13,” freshman center Luka Garza said. “We should have never let them back in it. It’s tough. There were some mental mistakes and some loose balls that we didn’t get. We have to get those.
“It’s frustrating. We had an opportunity to get them out of here early and we couldn’t put them away.”
Despite shooting 71 percent from the floor in the first half, the Hawkeyes held just a 45-42 lead at the break. They ended up hitting 55 percent for the game, connected on 19 of 22 free throws and won the rebounding battle by 14. It wasn’t enough to overcome 17 turnovers and an all-to-familiar porous defense.
Man. Zone. It didn’t matter. It was bad again.
Indiana’s Robert Johnson hit a Carver-Hawkeye Arena record nine three-pointers. Back-court mate Devonte Green added four treys. They combined to shoot 13 of 17 from behind the arc, many of their looks uncontested.
McCaffery said his team’s inability to close out on the shooters hurt. It also lost track of Johnson and Green too often in the zone.
“Occasionally you’re going to be late, but “where is he? Where’s Johnson?” That was the frustrating thing, I thought,” McCaffery said.
McCaffery agree with Garza. Iowa’s inability to extend, or even maintain it’s big first-half edge proved costly.
“We got a lead, we got content to trade (baskets),” the coach said.
Bohannon, who’s among the league’s best shooters, struggled to a 3 of 12 day from the floor, including 2 of 10 on threes. Still, he thought his final attempt was going down.
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“It may have looked a little off balance but it felt open to me,” he said. “It felt good but obviously I wasn’t shooting the ball as well as I wanted to tonight, which is really frustrating for me.”
Cook said he misjudged how much time he had on his put-back attempt. He rushed it back up at the basket instead of gathering himself.
“I tried to get it on the rim and I failed to do so,” he said.
It was one of the few things he failed to do Saturday. The sophomore from St. Louis scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. His hustle on the offensive glass late kept his team in it.
Despite his off shooting day, Bohannon finished with 10 points and extended his consecutive free throw steak to 32, two shy of Chris Street’s program record. He also dished out seven assists with only two turnovers in 36 minutes.
Garza knocked down 6 of 8 field goal attempts and finished with 17 points. He added three rebounds and three assists.
Johnson ended up with a game-high 29 for the Hoosiers (16-12 overall, 9-7 Big Ten). Green added 18, and Justin Smith contributed 15 off the bench.
The Hawkeyes (12-17, 3-13) return to action on Wednesday with a trip to Minnesota.