After finally winning their first Big Ten game of the season, the Hawkeyes couldn’t get anything going on the road against one of the conference’s top defenses.
By Pete Ruden
Iowa had momentum in the Big Ten for six days.
After coming back from being down 20 points on the road to Illinois and stealing a 104-97 overtime win, it seemed as if the Hawkeyes may have figured things out.
That optimism went out the window when Iowa suffered an 80-64 loss at Rutgers on Wednesday.
While Rutgers has played stellar defense and lagged behind on offense all season, they played well on both ends of the floor against the Hawkeyes.
But strong offensive performances tend to be a theme when teams play Iowa.
The duo of Issa Thiam and Geo Baker tore the Hawkeye defense apart; they combined for 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting.
They did most of their damage from behind the arc, shooting 7-of-11 from deep.
Corey Sanders got in on the action as well, finishing with 18 points and a monster slam that essentially destroyed the rim.
“I think they played with great energy,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “I think they were connected, and they really maintained their composure and shared the ball. They had a lot of guys in double figures, and I thought that was a key for them.”
Rutgers’ strong defense held true on Wednesday. Ranked second in the Big Ten in opponent points per game and third in opponent field-goal percentage, the Hawkeye offense couldn’t get much going outside of Jordan Bohannon.
At one point in the first half, Bohannon led a 9-0 run, hitting three 3-pointers, to give Iowa an early lead.
But that fell apart shortly afterwards when the Scarlet Knights went on a 12-0 run and kept the momentum for the rest of the game.
After Bohannon hit his first four shots from deep, the Hawkeyes seemed to fall off the map offensively.
Bohannon led the way for Iowa, dropping 23 points along with 5-of-9 shooting from behind the arc, but no one else could get anything going — besides Nicholas Baer in the second half.
Baer tried to keep Iowa in the game, lighting it up from deep and affecting the game with efficient scoring.
All of Baer’s 11 points came in the second half, when the Hawkeyes needed someone to step up, but it wasn’t enough.
Earlier in the week, McCaffery said it was important for his team to establish its presence inside, but it was unable to do that against the Scarlet Knights.
Tyler Cook, who has been a source of offense all season, only mustered 10 points. Luka Garza, who makes Iowa a much better team when he plays well, only had 8, shooting slightly better than 33 percent from the field.
“Their bigs were real physical and keeping us from getting too many easy baskets inside,” McCaffery said. “It doesn’t mean you stop trying to do that and just start jacking jumpers. You want to shoot open jumpers.”
Even though the Hawkeyes shot the ball well from 3-point range, they only shot 39.3 percent as a whole.
Pair that with 17 turnovers for the third-straight game, and it’s no surprise that Iowa suffered a double-digit loss, especially against a defense as good as Rutgers’.
“We never, until the very end, looked comfortable offensively,” McCaffery said. “We were working, we were moving the ball a little bit better, but our execution wasn’t good, and quite honestly, our shot selection wasn’t good.”