Horrible 3-point shooting costs Iowa again on the road
Fran McCaffery's squad only makes 3-of-28 threes in Wednesday's 64-52 loss at Wisconsin
By Pat Harty
The 3-point shot has impacted the game of basketball perhaps more than anything else over the past 35 years.
It can often be the difference between winning and losing, and for the Iowa men’s basketball team, it’s been the latter in the last two games.
The Hawkeyes only made 3-of-28 shots from 3-point range against Wisconsin on Wednesday at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin and that was too much to overcome in a 64-52 loss.
Iowa had the same problem against Northwestern last Sunday when it made just 3-of-24 threes in an 80-60 loss in Evanston, Illinois.
The Hawkeyes were a combined 6-of-52 from 3-point range in the last two games, and the end result was double-digit losses in both games.
“We had another horrible shooting night,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said on the Learfield post-game radio show. “We had some really good looks.
“But if you shoot 3 for 28 it’s going to be hard to win.”
Junior forward Kris Murray was in foul trouble in the first half and finished with a season low five points, which is 15 below his team-leading average.
“They were obviously guarding him closely,” Fran McCaffery said. “They were chasing him everywhere. They weren’t switching. They were being physical with him.
“So, we tried to free him up. We ran some stuff for him. He got some open looks from three. We posted him a few times. He had some uncharacteristic misses for him in the post.”
Iowa fell to 17-11 overall and 9-8 in the Big Ten, while the Badgers improved to 16-11 and 8-9.
Wisconsin also completed the season sweep against Iowa after having won 78-75 in overtime on Dec. 11 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa also fell to 2-7 in Big Ten road games, but the good news is that Iowa returns home to face Michigan State on Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Murray and his cohorts are a much better 3-point shooting team at home.
Iowa entered Wednesday’s game leading the Big Ten in scoring at 80 points per game, but the inability to make threes on the road has been an ongoing problem.
“I still have trust in my guys,” said senior forward Filip Rebraca. “They’re still going to get great open shots.”
Fran McCaffery was pleased with his team’s effort and he felt that most of shots from 3-point range were good looks that just didn’t fall.
The problem for Iowa is that it doesn’t seem to have an answer on offense when it struggles from 3-point range.
From an offensive standpoint, the first half was brutal for both teams.
Iowa only made 1-of-12 shots from 3-point range in the first half, while Kris Murray only played eight minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls and was held scoreless, and yet, Wisconsin only led 27-26 at the break despite shooting 52 percent from the field.
“He just got sideways with a couple of the calls early,” Fran McCaffery said of Murray.
The Badgers uncharacteristically had eight turnovers in the first half, which almost matched their nation leading per-game average of 8.7 turnovers.
Murray finally ended his scoring drought by making a 3-point basket with just over 16 minutes left in the second half to give Iowa a 35-34 lead.
Iowa also led 41-40 with about 10 minutes to play, but then were outscored 24-11 the rest of the way.
“I was really upbeat with them,” Fran McCaffery said of his message to his players afterwards. “I think for the most part the effort was there. It’s not an easy team to guard. But we fought hard defensively.”