NEW YORK As the Iowa basketball team started to take some warm-up shots Thursday evening, the proceedings came to a grinding halt. The net at the Hawkeyes’ end of the floor had to be repaired, prompting a 10-minute delay. It was a sign of things to come.
Iowa never would find its shooting touch in a 74-54 loss to Baylor in the championship game of the NIT at Madison Square Garden. The Hawkeyes finished the season 25-13, tying for the second-best win total in school history. But that was of little consolation after Baylor carried off the championship trophy in one-sided fashion.
“We didn’t do a lot of things, and we can start pointing out the things that we didn’t do collectively, but nothing will take away the fact that we won 25 games, and nothing will take away the fact that we had one of the greatest senior leaders I’ve ever been around (Eric May),” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Hopefully what we’ll do is learn from this experience and be better for it.”
A team that lost seven Big Ten games by four points or less was humbled Thursday. The only loss more one-sided all season was a 95-67 loss at Michigan on Jan. 6. Iowa shot just 26.1 percent from the field Thursday, matching the worst effort of the season. The Hawkeyes also shot 26.1 percent against Wichita State in the title game of the Cancun Challenge on Nov. 21.
Iowa’s Devyn Marble, who had averaged 24.3 points in NIT play, couldn’t keep the magic going. After making two of his first three shots of the game, Marble went scoreless for more than 26 minutes.
Marble finished with just six points. The junior guard was just 3-for-12 from the field, and missed all four of his 3-point attempts. He was 32-for-65 in the first four NIT games.
“I don’t think we made the defensive stops that we needed, because we’ve struggled shooting pretty much all season,” said Marble, who was named to the NIT all-tournament team. “But we’ve been able to overcome that with good defense. We didn’t do that (Thursday).”
Mike Gesell led the Hawkeyes with 13 points in 17 minutes. He made four of six shots from the field. But Zach McCabe was zero for eight. Aaron White missed nine of 13 attempts. Iowa was just 18-of-69 from the field.
Seven of those misses were blocked shots, five by Baylor 7-foot-1 freshman center Isaiah Austin. He and 6-9 junior Cory Jefferson had Iowa players rushing shots inside, and missing them with alarming frequency in the second half.
“I think we were looking around a little bit,” said McCaffery, whose team was outscored in the lane 36-18. “I think that’s fair to say.”
It wasn’t just one player, either. Everyone struggled.
“We didn’t really stick to the game plan,” White said. “We didn’t play as tough as we’ve been playing. We didn’t play as together as we’ve been playing.”
Iowa battled that front line, getting 20 offensive rebounds to the Bears’ five.
But that only translated to a 10-4 advantage in second-chance points.
“The stat that jumps out to me is 20 offensive rebounds,” McCaffery said. “Against this team. Now that’s effort. That’s special. That should have equated to more success on offense.”
Baylor shot 54.2 percent from the field, and 11 of the Bears’ 26 field goals were dunks. Jefferson flushed six of them on his way to a 23-point night. Point guard Pierre Jackson, the tournament’s most outstanding player, finished with 17 points and 10 assists. Austin added 15 points and nine rebounds.
Baylor opened the game by taking a 9-2 lead. Iowa got within 28-27 early in the second half on a May hoop, but couldn’t keep pace.
“It was just one of those nights,” May said. “Too bad it had to be (Thursday).”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball