It’s a losing stretch when every game looks the same.
And the frustration is mounting with Iowa after Sunday’s 67-65 loss at Indiana.
Armaan Franklin’s jumper over the outstretched arm of Iowa’s Joe Wieskamp with 1.8 seconds sent the Hawkeyes (13-6 overall, 7-5 Big Ten) to their fourth loss in the last five games.
They have let big second-half leads go in three of those losses and in the lone win — in this one, they were up 45-35 with 14:30 to play — and are left searching for answers.
“I think they’re frustrated, because we were in every one of these games that we’ve lost,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “The game was in the balance, so that’s going to be frustrating, and they’re frustrated, and you expect them to be.”
No one appeared as frustrated as Iowa center Luka Garza, who sat for the final 12:30 of the first half after picking up his second foul.
Garza finished with 18 points, but he was especially unhappy with the shot he missed with 41 seconds left and the Hawkeyes down, 63-62.
Garza thought he got a good look at the final shot, something he mentioned frequently when answering questions about the game.
“I’m upset about that,” Garza said. “I was just trying to help put my team in a position to win the game. That one’s going to sit with me for a while.”
He sat for a while in the first half after picking up his second foul. The Hawkeyes led 17-7 when he went out, pushed the lead to 23-11 when he went out, then Indiana closed the half with a 22-8 run.
The only points scored by the Hawkeyes after Garza went out were 11 by Joe Wieskamp and three by Tony Perkins.
Asked after the game why Garza, the nation’s leading scorer, didn’t come back even with the two fouls, McCaffery said, “You know what? You guys are unbelievable. You want me to play the bench, the bench is in there because guys are in foul trouble, and then you want me to take them out. How are they going to get better? How are they going to improve? It’s a ridiculous question.”
Garza said of the decision, “I just can’t put my team in that position. … I trust Coach McCaffery and his decisions. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”
Still, the Hawkeyes had their chances in the second half. After Garza’s miss, Indiana extended its lead to 65-62 on two free throws from Trayce Jackson-Davis, but Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon tied the game on a 3-pointer with 27 seconds left.
The Hoosiers, with Franklin dribbling at the top of the key, ran out almost all of the clock. Franklin was 1-of-9 shooting heading into the final possession, but he dribbled right and was guarded by Wieskamp. He stepped back and launched his game-winner over Wieskamp.
“I thought we had the right guy on him,” Wieskamp said. “Weezy was on him, Weezy has size. They’re in the double bonus, the last thing Weezy wants to do is foul him. He wants him to make a contested tough two. And he made it.”
“That’s some grit right there,” Garza said. “That’s impressive for him.”
The Hawkeyes took a timeout to draw a final play. Connor McCaffery’s length-of-the-court inbounds pass hit off the backboard and careened toward midcourt, and Iowa couldn’t get off a shot as time ran out.
“The game was in the balance, the kid makes a tough step-back,” McCaffery said. “We had opportunities. We had a lead in the second half. We had wide-open threes that we’re really good shots, they didn’t go.”
The Hoosiers (10-8, 5-6) kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive by finishing a sweep of the Hawkeyes.
Jackson-Davis led Indiana with 17 points. Race Thompson had 15.
Wieskamp finished with 18 — 15 of those in the first half. Bohannon had 11, and Keegan Murray had 10.
The Hawkeyes play at home against Rutgers on Wednesday, and play at Michigan State on Saturday.
“I think for the most part they’ve been positive for themselves and each other,” McCaffery said. “Don’t blame each other, and just stay together. Stay positive. That’s what I’ll do.”
“This isn’t something that’s going to be ‘woe is me,’” Garza said. “We lost a tough one. We battled. We played well enough to win. In the second half, we had our chances. It’s unfortunate we didn’t win this game, but it’s something we’ll learn on and be better in the future.”