MADISON, Wis. – Things were unraveling for Iowa’s basketball team Sunday when coach Fran McCaffery was given his walking papers at the Kohl Center.
McCaffery’s ejection with just less than 12 minutes to play was the Kodak moment in undefeated and No. 4 Wisconsin’s 75-71 comeback victory against the 22nd-ranked Hawkeyes, but Iowa’s downward spiral already had started.
The Hawkeyes’ 11-point halftime lead had melted to 41-39 with 11 minutes, 51 seconds to play when McCaffery was ejected while arguing a foul call on center Gabe Olaseni. Tim Clougherty and John Gaffney issued the technicals, in rapid-fire order, as McCaffery was being restrained by his coaching staff. It was McCaffery’s second ejection as Iowa coach. The other came at Northern Iowa in 2011.
“What I feel bad about is the second one,” McCaffery said. “The first one, I think it’s safe to say, I kind of went after that one a little bit. The second one, I’m not so sure about.”
Asked if he felt his technicals cost his team the game, McCaffery responded, “No.” He also said he didn’t make contact with an official and doesn’t expect to be disciplined.
“I got two technicals,” McCaffery said. “Why would I be disciplined?”
Ben Brust, a former Iowa recruit who was released from his signed letter of intent after McCaffery replaced Todd Lickliter as Hawkeyes coach, made all four free throws awarded after the technicals to give Wisconsin its first lead since the game was less than a minute old, 43-41.
It was a lead the Badgers never relinquished in improving to 15-0 and 2-0 in the Big Ten Conference. This is Wisconsin’s best start since the 1914-15 season. Brust scored all 19 of his points the second half.
Iowa fell to 12-3 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten. Its three losses have come to teams with a combined 41-1 record.
“I’m sick and tired of losing to teams we’re better than,” said Iowa’s Aaron White, who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds and has scored in double figures in all five games he’s played against Wisconsin.
Sunday’s loss followed an all-too-familiar pattern for a team that lost a ninth consecutive game to a top-25 team. Like the Iowa State and Villanova losses this season, the Hawkeyes built a double-figure lead in the first half and couldn’t sustain it.
“We get up, we prove we can play and beat these teams, and then we let them back into the game and end up losing down the stretch,” White said. “I’m sick of that happening.”
Devyn Marble scored 27 points for the Hawkeyes, hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers. His teammates were 0-for-5. Marble said his coach’s departure didn’t affect the game.
“I don’t know how much in depth I can go, but I know he didn’t intentionally try to get both,” Marble said.
McCaffery did his best to dodge specifics about his ejection.
“I can’t address that as much as I would like,” he said. “I can’t.”
Later, he said “I’d love to go there with you and explain to you my perspective, but it’s not allowed by rules.”
McCaffery was clearly displeased with the way his team was playing to start the second half. The Hawkeyes missed 16 of their first 18 field-goal attempts after halftime.
“I think we lost the game at the start of the second half,”McCaffery said. “We got Brust going, then we didn’t pick him up. We quick-shot the ball. You can’t go on the road and quick-shoot the ball when the momentum is shifting.”
As McCaffery watched the rest of the game on a television in the Iowa locker room, accompanied by Iowa media relations director Steve Roe, the Badgers increased their lead to as many as eight. Iowa fought back, cutting the deficit to 64-63 with just less than three minutes to play. Then Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker tracked down an offensive rebound after a Brust miss and made a 3-pointer, his first field goal, to give the Badgers a 67-63 lead that was the dagger.
“I knew I hadn’t hit a shot yet,” said Dekker, who is averaging a team-best 14.5 points per game but was 0-for-9 from the field at that point. “I didn’t know how many I had missed.”
And Iowa didn’t have what was needed down the stretch to pick up a signature road win.
“But we know we’ll get a second crack at them,” Marble said. “ I’m definitely looking forward to it, I’ll tell you that.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball