There is no way that anybody can explain how giving 95 points and 60% shooting from the floor is not an issue. That’s what the Iowa defensive effort yielded in Tuesday’s loss in Minneapolis.
As funny as it sounds, the defense wasn’t the entire story in this one. Not when Minnesota went absolutely berzerk from long range, riling up the crowd and planting a seed of doubt into the minds of the road warriors. The Hawkeyes did force 14 turnovers and were only -1 in the rebounding department. Not terrible playing against a team that couldn’t miss at times.
Add the fact that Minnesota’s last field goal attempt was with 8:30 to play in the 2nd half. This is a very different contest if the Gophers didn’t go 14-17 from the free throw line in those final eight minutes—something that isn’t really a defensive issue.
The reason Iowa landed in Bloomington facing their first losing streak of the season is that—stop me if you’ve heard this before—their collective end of game execution is worse than waking up five minutes before a class across campus.
The last minute of play is all you need to dissect about this one. Oglesby airmails an off-balance three, to which Minnesota rebounds and splits a pair of free throws, making the Iowa deficit five. After a quick Gesell layup and a timeout by Fran, Iowa chooses to foul with 46 seconds to play in a one-possession game.
The gamble is fruitless, as a 63% free throw shooter makes both, and after wide open misses by McCabe and Oglesby, Iowa looses the ballgame. Give Maurice Walker credit for knocking down his four attempts—all of which coming immediately after Iowa’s timeout down three. However, McCaffery’s choice not to play out the stretch cost Iowa the contest.
He decided to prolong the game, as opposed to forcing Minnesota to score a basket against his defense that stood tall in the final eight minutes of the game. A very poor decision. The rustling in The Barn after Walker walked to the opposing free throw lines seemed to indicate that, rather than being an uneasy crowd, the Gophers knew they had caught a break.
There is no secret that Iowa has been putrid in late game scenarios. Missed free throws, turnovers and airballed shots have taken this team to the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. Blame the team and their social media habits all you want. Tonight was about Fran McCaffery’s choice not to trust his team at the end of the game to get a stop, adding the coach to the list of who to find ultimately accountable for Iowa’s late season slide.