AMES, Ia. – Fran McCaffery was sporting some new glasses Friday.
“My prescription changed,” Iowa’s basketball coach said.
I asked him if he could see better.
“A little bit,” he said, with a laugh.
But what he saw Friday night at Hilton Coliseum looked like a repeat of last season. His 23rd-ranked Hawkeyes had a signature victory on their fingertips, then turned it over.
It followed a hauntingly familiar script to several games last season against resume-building foes, namely Michigan State at home; Minnesota and Wisconsin on the road. Close, but no cigar. And an NCAA bid went up in smoke.
After going 4-3 against top-25 teams in 2011-12, Iowa has now lost eight straight during the last two seasons. That will have to change for the Hawkeyes to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.
After Friday’s game, Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg called Iowa “a great basketball team.” He said the Hawkeyes have what it takes to make a deep NCAA run. He also called Iowa the best team the Cyclones have played this season. That includes Michigan, so there’s that.
But NCAA bids are based on action, not words.
“We didn’t make the plays, or the free throws, down the stretch and ended up paying for it,” Iowa’s Devyn Marble said.
Iowa outplayed Iowa State in the Cyclones’ own comfortable, cozy bed. Every time Iowa State made a run, the Hawkeyes answered. At least until the final, fateful 81 seconds. Iowa State finished the game on an 8-0 run. Marble missed the front end of a one-and-one — and Mike Gesell missed two more — in the final 36 seconds that changed everything.
Iowa was 13-of-15 from the line in the first 32 minutes, then went just 1-of-6 down the stretch.
“If you would have said we’d outrebound them 49-35, I’d say we win the game,” McCaffery said. “And hold them to six offensive rebounds, we win the game. It tells me we fought. And I’m proud of our guys.”
Individually, there were some bright spots. Sophomore center Adam Woodury was active inside, grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds.
“He was really comfortable out there, doing a lot of good things,” McCaffery said.
Marble had 19 points, six assists to just one turnover and two steals. He also missed three free throws, dropping his season percentage to .658. This from a guy who shot .810 last season.
Aaron White had 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field, finishing a basket shy of his career high. His 17 rebounds were a career high, and the most ever for a McCaffery-coached Hawkeyes player.
“His versatility was evident,” McCaffery said of White. “And he was able to score in a variety of ways, which we need him to do. On the glass, 17 rebounds. A great night by a great player.”
Iowa fell to 10-2. The losses are to No.<TH>10 Villanova on a neutral floor and against No.<TH>17 Iowa State on the road. Two great opportunities lost.
With a combined six games remaining against No.<TH>3 Ohio State, No.<TH>4 Wisconsin and No.<TH>5 Michigan State on the horizon, there are more opportunities to come.
Rick Brown, a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year, covers Hawkeye football and basketball for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball