1A. Final sequence. The sounds coming from inside and outside Iowa’s locker room after Friday’s 85-82 loss at Iowa State was less frustration and more anger. And I kind of like it.
The players knew they blew a five-point lead with 1:29 left in the game. Their final four possessions ended in failure, and the Cyclones finished the game on an 8-0 run. There were no excuses, and no one offered up any.
“Throughout the season you’re going to have games where you close them out and you don’t,” Iowa guard Devyn Marble said. “(Friday) happened to be one of those we didn’t close out. But I was still impressed with how we played and where we’re at. You can find a variety of reasons why we lost, but we’ve got to make the plays.”
Let’s take a look at each possession. After ISU forward Georges Niang hit a pair of free throws to bring the Cyclones within 82-79 with 1:21 left, Iowa faced a press defense. Iowa point guard Mike Gesell broke the press, and the Hawkeyes worked into their offensive set. The Hawkeyes moved the ball around the perimeter until Jarrod Uthoff took a baseline jumper with about 7 seconds left on the shot clock. Iowa’s Aaron White secured the rebound, turned from the basket and dribbled once. ISU’s DeAndre Kane stole the ball and raced down the court.
“I had control of it,” White said. “I wasn’t planning on dribbling it. He hit the ball out of my arm, it got knocked away and I tried to gather it.”
Either way, ISU’s Melvin Ejim hit two free throws with 42.5 seconds left to bring the Cyclones within 82-81.
Iowa moved the ball up the court, and Marble was fouled with 35.8 seconds left. It was ISU’s ninth foul that half, and Marble missed the front end of a one-and-one. ISU’s Dustin Hogue grabbed the board and raced up the court.
ISU Coach Fred Hoiberg called a timeout just as Kane was driving to the basket. Seconds later, Niang drove baseline around Uthoff, who clearly wanted to avoid a foul, and Niang put up a reverse layup to give ISU an 83-82 lead.
Gesell had hit several big shots in the game and drove hard on ISU’s Monte Morris. Gesell was fouled and missed both free-throw attempts, forcing Uthoff to foul Hogue with 12 seconds left. Hogue knocked down both to provide a three-point margin.
Iowa had one last chance. After moving the ball quickly, the Hawkeyes found senior Zach McCabe left of the key for an open 3-pointer. McCabe’s shot hit the back of the rim with 3 seconds left and bounced out. A pair of putbacks didn’t go in, and ISU took the win.
1B. A couple of numbers. Before missing his final three free throws, Gesell had knocked down 84 percent of his free throws this year. Before making his final four free throws in the game, Hogue shot 64 percent from the line.
McCabe entered the game second in Big Ten 3-point shooting at 48.5 percent. He missed all four 3-point attempts Friday and now ranks eighth.
Iowa outrebounded Iowa State 49-35. Both teams averaged around 46 rebounds a game going in. Iowa also had 14 offensive boards to Iowa State’s six.
“If you would have said we were going to outrebound them 49-35, I’d say we’d win the game,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “Hold them to six offensive rebounds, we win the game.”
Before making its final six free throws, the Cyclones were 17 of 30 from the line. Before missing four of its final five, Iowa made 13 of 16 from the line.
2. Sweep the leg. Thirty years ago that line seemed almost evil in “The Karate Kid.” Translated in today’s era, it means “do whatever it takes to win without mercy.”
Iowa’s late-game struggles are magnified because of the team’s inability to close out tight games last year. In the final two minutes or overtime of 12 games decided by single digits last year, Iowa shot 32.1 percent from the field and 60.9 percent from the free-throw line. The Hawkeyes won four of those games.
This year, Iowa’s numbers are better. Of Iowa’s five games decided by single digits, the Hawkeyes shoot 63.3 percent from the free-throw in the final two minutes or overtime. Iowa shoots 48 percent from the floor.
Outside of the ISU game, Iowa had shot 72 percent from the free-throw line and 58 percent from the floor in single-digit games. Based on the numbers, the ISU collapse was an aberration … at least it was this year.
“We’ve been a resilient bunch for the most part in our close wins against Xavier and Notre Dame,” White said. “We just didn’t make the plays (Friday).”
“There were some really good players out there going at it,” McCaffery said. “I’m proud of my guys, I know Fred (Hoiberg) is proud of his guys. The kids kept fighting and that’s what college basketball is. The atmosphere is phenomenal.”
But late collapses from 2012-13 remain fresh in the fans’ minds. Iowa blew a nine-point lead at Wisconsin, a four-point advantage at Minnesota, a 19-point edge at Nebraska, double-digit leads to Michigan State and a two-point lead inside a minute at Purdue. That’s why many fans are lumping in Iowa’s loss Friday with all of those in the past. The only way to remove those from memory is to sweep the leg.
3. Woodbury played his best game. Sophomore center Adam Woodbury has received considerable criticism from fans. Most of it is centered around Woodbury’s modest scoring totals and the fact he was a top-50 recruit out of Sioux City. But Woodbury provides several intangibles that few see on the court, and they were on display at Iowa State.
Woodbury is one of the team’s best passers, a good screener and often ignites quick baskets from the high post. Because nobody can match his 7-foot-1 size, Woodbury sees over the defense and often spots his fellow front-liners within striking distance of the basket. He also provides solid interior defense and sometimes guards opponents outside of the paint.
As for the tangibles, they were pretty stout against Iowa State. He grabbed 11 rebounds, dished two assists and had two steals. On one of his steals Woodbury snagged the ball down low from ISU’s Melvin Ejim, who was driving baseline. Even more impressive was Woodbury tying up Georges Niang for a jump ball after ISU had taken the lead midway through the second half. That led to a pair of Marble free throws that put Iowa back in the lead.
“I thought he played great,” McCaffery said. “I think it was good for him. He was really comfortable out there, doing good things.”
Iowa committed 27 fouls to Iowa State’s 20, and the Cyclones shot 36 free throws to Iowa’s 21. For the season Iowa has made 268 free throws while its opponents have shot 230. The Hawkeyes have scored 115 more points from their opponents at the free-throw line. Mike Sanzere, Tom Eades and Kelly Self are Big Ten officials and called a tight game. Many of the fouls were a result of the new interpretation. That’s here to stay, folks. It will also help the Hawkeyes more than hurt them down the road.
The game’s final sequence featured McCabe’s shot followed by a pair of putback attempts from Uthoff and White. Gesell stood outside of the 3-point line and attempted to call a timeout with about 1 second left. Had either Uthoff or White grabbed the ball instead of tipping it, it’s possible Iowa could have secured the timeout. But when there’s no real possession in a semi-scramble situation, you can’t expect officials to hang back and grant a timeout.
Iowa (10-2) fell two spots to No. 25 in the latest AP rankings and now is the top team receiving votes outside of the coaches’ top 25 poll. ISU (8-0) is ranked No. 13 by coaches and No. 17 by the AP.