BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Iowa’s tentative play on offense was universal Saturday night at No. 1 Indiana, but junior guard Devyn Marble took full responsibility for its failings in a 73-60 loss.
Marble finished with 20 points after scoring just two in the first half. He said he needed to attack the Hoosiers’ defense earlier in the game and was trying too hard to find perfect shots.
“At this level and at this level of competition, you’re not going to get too many clean looks the way the way I was looking for them,” Marble said.
“I think if I would have done that (played more aggressively), it would have helped everybody including my teammates. Me being aggressive doesn’t mean me just scoring, (but) also finding other guys off my penetration and I wasn’t doing that. I think the struggles on offense is personally on me, from me not being aggressive and being the leader and the guy we look to to score.”
The Hawkeyes (18-11, 7-9 Big Ten) shot just 29.2 percent from the floor, scored 14 points and had 14 fouls in the first half. The offense lacked any flow and only once did the team score on consecutive trips up the court. Iowa had 34 first-half possessions and scored just seven times.
“We weren’t playing to our strength,” said Iowa sophomore Aaron White, who scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds. “Our strength is attacking, playing north and south, getting up in transition. We were playing east and west, playing tentatively.”
“We were just stagnant,” Iowa senior Eric May said. “We weren’t pushing it and being aggressive. We moved the ball around on offense, but we weren’t making any drives, making any aggressive plays. That makes it a lot tougher when they don’t have to help off. It made it easier to guard.”
Iowa adjusted after halftime and scored with set plays on its first two post-halftime possessions. One produced a dunk from Adam Woodbury, and another led to a Marble layup. Marble later helped Iowa trim its deficit to nine points after a jumper and then a 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions.
At one point Iowa scored on 11 of 12 possessions, but couldn’t slow Indiana’s offense to make up any ground. Iowa shot 45.2 percent in the second half, committed only five turnovers and made 17 of 21 free-throw attempts. Marble, who has averaged 19 points in Iowa’s last six games, was 6-of-11 after halftime and hit the team’s only 3-pointer.
“I just took what they gave me in the second half, and it worked out from that standpoint,” Marble said.
1. Inexplicable offense in a do-or-die situation. Iowa’s players admit they were tentative on offense at a hostile environment against an aggressive defense opponent. With the team’s NCAA tournament hopes on life support, it was surprising not to see a go-for-broke offensive approach at the nation’s top-ranked team.
“I wouldn’t really call it a freeze-up,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “I’d call it a really good defensive effort by a terrific defensive team.”
The 14 turnovers and 12 fouls in the first half turned Iowa’s offense into a quagmire. So did Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, who locked down Aaron White in the first half. Oladipo, the reigning Big Ten player of the week, had four steals to go along with his 10 points and eight rebounds.
2. May deserves to start. Iowa has two more home games this season, and senior Eric May has earned the right to start. He played 30 minutes, scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds — including three on offense — and had no turnovers (the team had 19). It would be more than sentimental to give the team’s only senior and co-captain a starting nod; it makes sense, especially with freshman guard Mike Gesell out of the lineup with a foot injury.
“(May) was phenomenal,” McCaffery said. “He guarded small guys, he guarded big guys. He played a guard spot, he played forward. He got rebounds and ran the break. He was executing in the half-court, and he was scoring. He was fabulous.”
3. No foul? Indiana All-American Cody Zeller made one of the better athletic plays of the season when he dove and stripped Iowa guard Anthony Clemmons, then raced down the court to dunk off a Will Sheehey behind-the-back pass. But when Zeller knocked the ball away, Clemmons tripped over him. It was a tremendous hustle play for sure. But in football, that’s a nice cut tackle. In soccer, that gives you a yellow card. In any other basketball arena, it’s a foul.
Clemmons had a breakaway steal with Iowa trailing 15-8 with about eight minutes to go. Zeller’s played prevented Iowa from gaining momentum, but it turned into a four-point swing and completely energized the crowd. Although the play wasn’t pivotal to the final outcome, it was clearly a missed call.
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