BLACKSBURG, Va. — In a basketball game filled with runs, Iowa ended up with the streaks.
Like extending its consecutive loss streak to seven in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge last night at Virginia Tech. Like losing its second consecutive game away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena by double digits, this time 95-79. Like revisiting questions about defensive intensity in another debacle.
“When you give up 95 points … we didn’t follow the game plan,” said sophomore forward Aaron White, who scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the loss. “We played (like) last year’s team, which I know we’ve gotten better defensively. We’ve got to break it down, see what went wrong.”
Iowa (5-2) and Virginia Tech (6-0) sizzled to a near-draw toward the end of the first half. Iowa led 37-36 with 3:14 left. Then, after battering the Hawkeyes into foul trouble within the game’s first 10 minutes, Virginia Tech attacked the basket. The Hokies shot six straight free throws to end the half on a 10-1 run and take an 46-38 halftime lead.
Then it got worse for Iowa. Virginia Tech guard Erick Green scored nine straight points to open the second half and push the Hokies’ lead to 17.
“They started the second half very well, obviously,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “They hit a bunch of shots, and we missed everything we took in the first couple of minutes. Got down 17, still a lot of time, kept our composure.”
The Hawkeyes rallied by utilizing an aggressive zone defense and letting Devyn Marble take full control on offense. Iowa cut its deficit to 57-54 with a 16-2 run. On five consecutive possessions Marble either scored or delivered the assist. With 11:49 left, either team had a chance to win.
But just as Iowa put itself into position for a second major comeback this year — the Hawkeyes rallied from 23 back to beat Gardner-Webb — the Hokies starting running. And Iowa started missing.
Virginia Tech scored on 13 of its next 15 possessions. The Hokies got easy baskets in transition and, more importantly, made nearly all of their foul shots. Virginia Tech shot 15 free throws in each half, and made 13 in the first half. The Hokies sank 14 in the second.
“We dropped our intensity. That’s pretty much what happened,” said Marble, who scored 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished seven assists. “We stopped doing the things that got us back into the game.”
“We weren’t getting back, we weren’t containing,” McCaffery said. “Once we cut it, once we had it to a one-possession game, our defensive intensity, concentration and focus wasn’t where it needed to be.”
Green was unstoppable, scoring 24 points, grabbing five rebounds and pushing five assists. He missed all four free-throw attempts but he was 8-of-9 from the free-throw line.
“We just got back out and running,” Green said. “We got back, kept our poise. We knew, we said at halftime they were going to make their run and we just had to respond back. We had a great job getting out running making some easy baskets and took the lead back.”
Iowa continues its historical difficulties in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, now 2-10 overall. With two consecutive losses this year — albeit to unbeaten squads — Iowa has some soul-searching to do as it enters the season’s second month. Especially on defense.
“(It) definitely was a step down from what we’d been doing this season,” White said. “I don’t think that’s the team we have.”