The start-of-the-game lethargy, especially on defense, was enough to get Fran McCaffery to burn through two timeouts.
Whatever the message was, it fueled Iowa to its biggest road win of the season.
The Hawkeyes’ defense, especially with help from the bench, shut down Maryland in Thursday’s 89-67 victory.
Iowa (10-2 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) fell behind 17-7 in the opening 5:38 of the game, forcing McCaffery to not just use timeouts, but do wholesale substitutions.
The response was a 20-0 run that sucked the energy out of the Terrapins.
“They had a lot of energy to start the game,” said Iowa center Luka Garza, who had a game-high 24 points. “They had a good game plan. I’m glad our team was able to bounce back, have a run of our own.”
“I thought our activity level, and our length, allowed us to get going a little bit,” McCaffery said.
Maryland scored the first six points of the game, leading to the first timeout at the 18:22 mark. It was on the second timeout when McCaffery started making lineup changes.
Joe Toussaint and Patrick McCaffery were the first players off the bench, and Toussaint responded with a steal and layup.
Jack Nunge and Keegan Murray were the next into the game, and they had 10 of Iowa’s next 13 points.
Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon understood McCaffery’s moves.
“He was just trying to get some stops together,” said Bohannon, who had 18 points, 15 in the second half. “We were letting guys drive by us.”
Toussaint, Patrick McCaffery, Nunge and Murray combined for almost 43 minutes of playing time in the first half.
“It’s just fantastic,” Bohannon said of the bench play. “We have guys who are able to step up. We have guys who understand their roles. For them to step up, it shows the kind of character they have, and the work ethic they have.”
“Our bench just had so much energy,” Garza said. “When we’re able to get stops and go on runs, that’s when we’re at our best.”
“We went to the zone. Our zone was active,” Fran McCaffery said. “I thought our activity level, and our length, allowed us to get going a little bit. We got some fast-break opportunities.
The Hawkeyes got 33 bench points.
“I think it all started with the energy level (the reserves) played with,” McCaffery said. “The more stops they got, the more energy they got.”
Maryland (6-6, 1-5) got to within 46-34 early in the second half before the Hawkeyes answered with a 12-2 run.
It was an emotional win for Garza, a native of Washington D.C. who got a win close to home in his final attempt.
“It means the world to me,” Garza said. “It took me three times. This is the place that raised me into the player I am.”
But it was an emotional game for another reason — it occurred just a day after a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in protest of the certification of the Electoral College vote.
Players and coaches from both teams, as well as game officials, took a knee before the opening jump ball.
Bohannon said Maryland’s Darryl Morsell reached out to him via text to ask him if the Hawkeyes would join the Terrapins in kneeling.
“I talked to my guys, and a lot of us were OK with doing that,” Bohannon said.
“It was definitely disturbing and upsetting to see that happen in the city I’m from,” Garza said. “It was upsetting to see for anybody.”
McCaffery said there was a police car stationed at the team’s hotel, and the players were advised not to leave the hotel.
“It was reprehensible what happened. Really, really heartbreaking,” McCaffery said.
The Hawkeyes have been kneeling all season before the national anthem at home games.
“After a while you get tired of kneeling, you get tired of talking about it,” McCaffery said. “What happened yesterday just can’t happen in our country. We always talk about having conversation. But conversation has to turn into action. Fortunately, more and more people are recognizing the changes that have to take place.”