MINNEAPOLIS – Fran McCaffery’s words had an edge to them.
“We obviously blew an opportunity,” Iowa’s basketball coach snapped after a 62-59 loss to No. 23 Minnesota on Sunday at Williams Arena.
Frustration. Anger. Disappointment. Another Big Ten game against a rated team within reach.
Austin Hollins’ 3-pointer from the right corner with 11.6 seconds to play erased the Hawkeyes’ two-point lead. Hollins then stripped Iowa’s Mike Gesell at the other end as Gesell attempted to take a go-ahead shot, and the Gophers got possession.
Andre Hollins made it a 3-point game with two free throws with 4.1 to go. Gesell’s 3-pointer from the right wing in the final second was on line, but hit the front of the rim.
“It’s tough to lose a game like that, especially since we felt we had it won,” Gesell said.
This was the fourth time this Big Ten season that Iowa has lost a game decided by four points or less or in overtime. In each of those close defeats, the Hawkeyes led, tied or were within one possession of the lead in the final minute of regulation.
Three of those four losses were against ranked teams, opportunities for a resume win.
McCaffery pointed to a lack of offensive execution, 10-of-17 shooting from the free-throw line and a 14-2 deficit to start the game as reasons why his team fell to 3-6 in the Big Ten and 14-8 overall.
“When you miss free throws and don’t execute, it’s hard,” McCaffery said.
No one felt the sting of this loss more than Eric May, Iowa’s lone senior. His conventional three-point play with 2:10 remaining gave the Hawkeyes a 59-55 lead. They would not score again.
“I still believe in our team,” May said. “We’re a great team. We’ve just got to finish these games out. We put ourselves in a position to win. We’ve got to take the next step. We can’t take it next year. We’ve got to take it right now. We’ve got to take care of business at Wisconsin (on Wednesday).”
Devyn Marble, Iowa’s leading scorer at 14.4 points a game, was shut out for the first time since a game against Northwestern on Feb. 17, 2011. His 17 minutes were the fewest he’s played since a game against Clemson on Nov. 29, 2011.
Marble hasn’t been the same since hurting his left ankle and left toe in practice before the Michigan State contest on
“I feel bad for him, because he’s a great kid,” McCaffery said. “I love him, and he’s a terrific player. He’s just not playing well. And he’s clearly playing without any confidence.”
Marble attempted just two shots, both 3-pointers. One of them was blocked.
“It’s frustrating,” Marble said. “I’ve just got to find a way to make it work. That’s all there is to it.”
Iowa got 11 points from Gesell and 10 each from Aaron White and Zach McCabe. McCabe was one reason Iowa’s bench outscored the Gophers’ 27-0. The Hawkeyes shot just 36.2 percent from the field but matched Minnesota, the Big Ten’s No. 1 rebounding team, 35-all on the glass.
Iowa finished the final 15 minutes of the first half on a 26-15 run to trail at halftime 29-28, and the Hawkeyes led by as many as four points three times in the final 8:20.
But the one stop, the one key basket, the one key play, never happened. Nothing chronicles that more than a play with less than 3 minutes remaining. Iowa was up 56-53 when Gesell raced up the floor after a steal. He missed a layup, then White and Clemmons also missed rebound shots from point-blank range. The rebound came out long, and the Gophers’ Rodney Williams dunked in transition.
Iowa still had a 59-57 lead with less than a minute remaining. Marble, who had been inserted into the game after 11 minutes on the bench following May’s three-point play, threw a wild pass out-of-bounds with :36.6 to go.
“The ball slipped,” Marble said. “(Gesell) was open, because his man helped off on me. My fault.”
Minnesota (17-5, 5-4) ran the possession down to :13.6, then called another timeout. Iowa defended Minnesota out of its planned play. And with the 5-second count on the in-bounds pass heading into its last second, Andre Hollins found Austin Hollins. The Gophers were 3-of-15 from 3 at that point, but Austin Hollins popped free and hit the clutch triple over Iowa’s zone and Gesell’s hand.
“The disappointing thing from our side is we’ve got to get up into his space,” McCaffery said. “He’s their best 3-point shooter, and he shoots a 3. That’s disappointing. You’ve got to chase him off it. If he makes a drive, it’s still a tie game. You can’t give him a 3 there.”
Seconds later, Gesell’s attempt to tie the game bounced off the rim.
“I thought it was in,” Gesell said. “That’s how it goes sometimes.”
And Iowa left Williams Arena with its latest gut-wrenching Big Ten loss.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball