The collective groaning inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena has become a recent definite for Iowa fans.
There were too many times to count Tuesday, whether it was the thirteen turnovers, critical free throw misses by Aaron White, Zach McCabe or Adam Woodbury or the 3-20 output from three-point range in a putrid loss to Ohio State.
Just two games after Fran McCaffery questioned his club’s toughness, the team lacked purpose in their offensive sets and submitted to Ohio State on defense, specifically when the shot clock ticked down under ten seconds.
With the Hawkeyes down four with just over four minutes to play, Iowa held Ohio State on 33 of the 35 seconds of clock, before an out-of-bounds pass after a Thad Matta timeout resulted in a vicious Amir Williams slam over a lackluster Roy Devyn Marble. Or with under a minute to go and Iowa down by four again, Aaron Craft held the ball under ten seconds on the shot clock and drove straight to the hoop, converting an AND1 against a flat-footed Marble and for all intensive purposes ending Iowa’s bid at a season sweep.
This was not Ohio State dictating the game, it was Iowa simply giving it to them.
There was life in the gym right before halftime, when Marble dove to the parquet, grabbed the ball and flipped it to Aaron White for a dunk in the closing seconds, to give Iowa yet another lead at recess. But the monotony of the offense returned soon after, with shuffling along the perimeter, lazy passes and poor in-bounds execution. Teams have figured out how to stop the running game, and Iowa’s inability to score in their half-court offense has become a glaring weakness.
Fran was frantic in trying to get some sort of rhythm on the floor tonight. At one point, he had a lineup of Gesell-Jok-Oglesby-Uthoff-White at the same time, a group that nobody in section K row 20 had ever seen before.
I haven’t even gotten to the rancid night Zach McCabe had. There was no doubt that he had the green light from beyond the arc—he took six threes. The issue was that nobody in the building could take that light and turn it red. He took quick, contested looks that seemed more like Iowa State basketball than whatever offense the Hawkeyes are running.
Despite all that, it would be a mistake not to mention Mike Gesell. While the criticism has seemed to mount for him this season, he played with passion tonight. With the rest of the team looking for a superhero, Gesell was the one driving in the lane and making baskets amongst the trees. In the final minutes of the game, it seemed like #10 was the only one in gold who wouldn’t call it quits. He finished with a team high 16 points on 7-11 shooting. On three occasions in the last four minutes Gesell brought Iowa within four points, but his teammates could not back him and get a stop they desperately needed.
Let’s hope the effort on Saturday resembles the play of the point guard tonight. That’s the kind of toughness this team needs right now.