IOWA CITY — Carver-Hawkeye Arena rocked again Monday, just as Iowa coach Fran McCaffery vowed in his opening news conference.
The Hawkeyes played fast, like he wanted. They played hard, like he demanded. They defended, like he expected. But Iowa failed to execute against No. 5 Indiana, like McCaffery needed.
The opportunities were available for an Iowa upset, but the Hawkeyes couldn't knock down the key shots in a 69-65 loss in the Big Ten opener for both squads. From a cold first half offensively to missing open shots in the second, Iowa couldn't quite pull ahead.
No moral victories, McCaffery said from the postgame microphone. But no reason to hang their heads, either.
"What I am, I'm going to be honest with them," McCaffery said. "I was impressed with our fight. We have got great character on our team. We fought hard. We hung in, but we have to understand is the anatomy of the game. This game is different than any other game we played before and a game we'll play from now.
"So what you've got to be able to do is, know and understand: What are the things we have to do to win this game and what are the things we can't do, because if we do those, we are going to lose this game."
One sequence late summed up the game for Iowa: there was a steal, a look, a shot, the ball in the air and then the rim. The game was there for the taking.
Iowa scrapped from a 10-point, second-half deficit and rallied with a chance to tie the game with 27.5 seconds left. Iowa freshman Mike Gesell stole an inbound pass, and Iowa junior Zach McCabe had an open look for the game-tying 3-pointer. The ball hit the rim, Indiana's Victor Oladipo rebounded. Oladipo then hit two free throws to put Indiana ahead 67-62.
"(McCabe) got a great look, and he’s a great shooter," said Iowa sophomore Aaron White, who scored a team high 15 points. "He makes it seven out of eight times. It just didn’t drop today."
McCabe’s miss hardly decided the outcome. Iowa’s Devyn Mable scored 14 points but missed 13 of 14 attempts. Iowa had its chances to push ahead on multiple possessions late in the game.
“Small plays here and there, you look back and could have made the outcome of the game a little different,” White said.
McCabe knocked down a jumper with 6:12 remaining to bring Iowa within one point at 57-56. Then after Indiana's Will Sheehey missed his next shot, a long pass from Josh Oglesby to White -- the same type that led to a crowd-rallying dunk against Coppin State -- sailed past the baseline.
On Iowa's next possession, Indiana's Jordan Hulls stole the ball from Iowa guard Anthony Clemmons. Iowa followed with a pair of missed jump shots, while Indiana went on a 6-0 run to extend its lead to 63-56.
"That's always a fine line with us because we want to run, we want to get attack," McCaffery said. "We want to get the ball and look ahead, and so that's how we school them, so they make a turnover and start yelling at him and say, 'What are you doing; what are you thinking.'"
Later, Indiana (13-1, 1-0 Big Ten) led 68-62 with 13.9 seconds left. Oglesby drilled a 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left to cut Iowa’s deficit to three points. After Christian Watford hit one of two free throws to push Indiana’s lead to the final score, Iowa was unable to pull closer.
The roots of the loss were set in the first half, where Iowa sank just sank 8-of-34 shots and only one 3-pointer. Indiana posted a 10-0 run to take control and lead 33-25 at halftime. Iowa battled back in the second half, scoring on 11 of 12 possessions to cut Indiana’s lead to 48-46. But against Indiana, which boasts likely top NBA draft pick Cody Zeller — who scored a game high 19 points — the lack of execution stifled Iowa’s chances of pulling out the upset.
The players, like McCaffery, are pleased with the effort. But not with the outcome.
“No moral victories,” Iowa guard Mike Gesell, who scored 13 points. “We’re confident that we can beat any team in the country, I would say. That’s just our competitive nature.”Coach McCaffery 12 31 12