Iowa played with intensity. That hasn’t always been there this year. A good sign.
The referees didn’t do the Hawkeyes any favors. Some of the calls against them were laughable. It happens.
When it came down to it, however, they had nobody to blame but themselves. After battling for three quarters of Sunday’s game at Maryland, they stopped playing defense. Or, they couldn’t play defense. Either way, it was the same old story.
The Terrapins dominated inside during a 91-73 win. They held a 56-22 advantage on points in the paint, largely because they were able to drive right through the Iowa defense. They either made it all the way to the rim or found a teammate who did.
Maryland (14-4 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) shot a blistering 57 percent from the floor despite connecting on just 4 of its 17 three-point attempts. It connected on 30 of 43 two-pointers and many of them were easy.
The Hawkeyes (9-9, 0-5) have lost its first five conference games for the first time since coach Fran McCaffery’s first season (2010-11), when they dropped the first six. During three league losses this week, Michigan (49.1 percent FG, 11 treys), Ohio State (53.0) and Maryland (56.7) sliced through their defense.
As mentioned, it starts with an inability to guard the ball. Often it’s the point guard, but other slashers find the going too simple as well. Then, either no help comes. When it does, the opposing big men feast, as they did on Sunday.
Terp freshman Bruno Fernando (6-10, 245) came into the action averaging 10.3 points. He netted 21, many of which came from dunking on people’s heads as he shot 8 of 11 from the floor.
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Iowa played better offensively. It trailed 48-44 at halftime, moving the ball well and getting everybody involved. It ended up shooting 11 of 21 on three-pointers.
Isaiah Moss shook off a slump to scoring a career-high 25 points (10-16 FGs, 4-6 threes). Maryland buckled down on the sophomore early in the second half, holding him to just two points during the final 17 minutes. To his credit, he did find open teammates when the defense clamped down on him.
The Hawkeyes played well on defense during the first nine minutes of the second half. They held Maryland to 13 points during that stretch. The game was tied at 61-61 with 11:18 to play.
Whether it was exhaustion, reverting to poor habits, the opposition exposing weaknesses or all of the above, little went well for Iowa from that point forward. The home team outscored it 32-12 during the final 11 minutes.
It didn’t help that the Hawkeyes played without leading scorer Tyler Cook for the game’s final 6:15. He was called for a personal foul and then a bogus technical, fouling him out of the game. Fernando stepping over him, taunting him and replay showed Cook just stood up. Cook finished with just seven points, less than half his season average.
The officials ejected McCaffery after a pair of technicals late in the first half. He was arguing what looked like a non-foul call on point guard Jordan Bohannon, which followed an elbow to the neck of forward Cordell Pemsl that was not penalized.
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The referees were bad, but Iowa’s defense was worse. That’s why it lost.
It was good to see Nicholas Baer play with renewed energy. He helped the Hawkeyes get off to a good start, hustling and making plays on both ends of the floor, including neutralizing the dangerous Kevin Huerter. Baer finished with seven points, 11 rebounds and four assists without a turnover.
Bohannon finished with 17 points, connecting on 5 of 10 three-point attempts. He handed out five assists but turned it over six times. He logged a team-high 36 minutes in a fast-paced game.
The Hawkeyes return to action on Thursday when they face Illinois, who at 0-4 is the only other team without a Big Ten win. They be trying to avoid matching that 0-6 conference start from McCaffery’s first season.