Harty: Iowa goes from being terrific to tentative and loses
One of the first reactions to a gut-wrenching loss in which your team led by a substantial margin is to blame somebody.
Iowa basketball fans played the blame game on social media after Thursday’s 83-82 loss to Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.
Some fans were mad that Iowa coach Fran McCaffery didn’t call a timeout in the closing seconds in order to draw up a play. They felt that Iowa could have taken a better shot than the 3-pointer that Jarrod Uthoff missed right before the buzzer.
But on the other hand, Uthoff had an open look from a spot on the floor where he is comfortable shooting. He just missed it.
McCaffery said he gave no thought to calling a timeout at the end. Hindsight makes it easy to blame McCaffery, but I have no problem with him letting his players decide the game.
And who’s to say that calling a timeout would’ve led to a better look than what Uthoff had at the end?
The easy thing is to blame everything that happened at the end of Thursday’s game on Hilton Magic. But that would be selling the Cyclones short and would be given the Hawkeyes a free pass when they don’t deserve it.
After dominating the first half, Iowa was tentative and played not to lose in the second half. Being tentative is usually the first step in losing a substantial lead. The Hawkeyes also committed 17 turnovers and were outscored 30-19 in points off turnovers.
“They did a really good job of capitalizing on our mistakes,” McCaffery said. “When we turned it over, they scored, which they do. If you take a bad shot or turn it over, they score.”
The 6-foot-9 Uthoff went from having arguably the greatest first-half performance I’ve ever seen from an Iowa basketball player with 30 points to having little impact on the game in the second half.
“They were into him,” McCaffery said of the Iowa State defenders. “But they were into him in the first half. For whatever reason, he wasn’t as aggressive. Maybe he sensed that they were up in his face a little bit more. He didn’t have as much opportunity to shoot the ball.
“And he just didn’t feel comfortable because a couple times we said, ‘Jarrod, shoot that one. Shoot that one.’”
Give first-year Iowa State coach Steve Prohm credit for making the right halftime adjustments, especially with defending Uthoff.
The Iowa State fans also deserve credit for unleashing another loud and disruptive dose of Hilton Magic.
But magic or no magic, Thursday’s game came down to making clutch plays more than anything else. The fourth-ranked Cyclones seized the moment, while Iowa slipped into a deep freeze.
“It just shows our character,” said Iowa State senior forward Jameel McKay. “We just never give up.”
Iowa State closed the game on a 9-0 scoring run and also held Uthoff to just two points in the second half, which is 28 fewer points than he had in the first half.
Iowa State point guard Monte Morris made the game-winning basket on a runner in the lane with about nine seconds remaining. Morris had struggled with his shooting until it mattered the most.
This loss will hurt for a while because the Hawkeyes were so close to doing what hardly anybody does at Hilton Coliseum. Iowa led by as many as 20 points in the first half thanks mostly to Uthoff, who made five 3-points baskets before halftime.
You knew Iowa State would make a run in the second half, but the Hawkeyes didn’t wilt until the very end.
Iowa actually took an 82-74 lead on a basket by senior guard Mike Gesell with 2 minutes, 36 seconds left to play. But the Hawkeyes didn’t score again, which is disheartening considering Iowa has four senior starters who should be used to playing in hostile environments.
You would’ve thought that a team with Iowa’s experience would handle the adversity better at the end. But it didn’t.
The Iowa players have no choice but to move on. Thursday’s loss was devastating, but it’s still only one defeat in a long season.
It just feels worse than that right now.