Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Free throws: how do they work?
There were a lot of reasons why Iowa lost to Ohio State -- we'll touch on a few later in this post and the inimitable Mr. Cow will delve into things in a Fran-Graph as well -- but that's the number that sticks out like a sore thumb right now. 13/26. Iowa attempted 26 free throws against Ohio State on Tuesday night (7 more than the Buckeyes attempted themselves), but made just 13 of them. 50%. In a 9-point loss (that Iowa had as close as 5 points with a minute to go and a chance to cut it to three at the free throw line; White made one of two to cut the lead to 4 points, which was as close as Iowa got the rest of the way), those missed freebies linger.
Iowa missed them early, missed them in the middle of the game, and missed them late. They missed them short and they missed them long. In the memorable case of one inglorious Gabe Olaseni free throw attempt, they missed the rim entirely. (This is not a dig on Gabe, either; it was shocking in part because he'd been such a reliable free throw shooter this year -- he entered the game hitting 80% from the line and made his first 14 free throw attempts. He's also just 2/8 from the charity stripe in Big Ten play.) Aaron White had the worst effort at the line (3/7), but Roy Devyn Marble (3/6) and Zach McCabe (4/7) had some real struggles, too. All three of these guys are shooting 72% or better from the line for the season; they picked a really lousy time to all have one of their first free throw-shooting nights of the year.
Granted, free throws weren't the only reason Iowa lost this game. They shot a wretched 35.5% from the field and their FG percentage was only that good because of a second half scoring surge (more on that in a bit). They conceded eight steals and had nine shots blocked. They did have a significant advantage on the offensive glass (19 to 10) thanks to Basabe and White (they had 10 offensive boards combined), but they weren't able to turn that into enough points. White led the team with 13 points and 7 rebounds in the face of steady jeering from the Ohio State crowd, while Basabe came off the bench to contribute yet another strong game against the Buckeyes (7 points, 10 rebounds). Mel loves playing OSU.
But speaking of that scoring surge... that burst of offensive proficiency is the reason it's possible to take some good vibes away from this game. Like several games in recent memory, a solid Iowa start (although this one was nowhere near as good as, say, the Wisconsin game) gave way to a big run from the opponent at the end of the first half (tonight, that was a 13-4 run for OSU). That surge carried over to the second half as OSU used a 19-7 run to open up a 52-29 lead with a shade under 13 minutes to play. If you'd turned the game off at that point, no one would have blamed you. After all, we've seen that script before and it usually ends in blood and tears. At that point, this game looked like a replay of the Michigan game and I was just hoping they might be able to chip away at that deficit to make the final margin more respectable.
Iowa had other ideas, apparently. They went on a 29-10 run over the next ten minutes, chopping the lead down to 63-58. That was impressive. It was disappointing that they couldn't get over that final hump (and poor free-throw shooting contributed to that) and even more disappointing that they managed to dig themselves such a gigantic hole to begin with, but the fightback they showed to get as close as they did was remarkable -- and the exact opposite of what happened in that disastrous Michigan game. Moral victories aren't going to get Iowa any closer to the postseason, but in this case it was definitely encouraging to see this Iowa team respond so admirably to adversity. This team is still flawed in many ways (at shooting, in particular), but they're definitely getting better. Let's see where this season's ride takes them.
And a word about the fouls... if you can figure out the rhyme or rhythm of the officiating in this game, you're either drunk, lying, or possessed of some serious creative thinking skills. There were 9 fouls called in the first half (3 on Ohio State, 6 on Iowa); by the time the game ended Iowa had been whistled for 20 fouls and Ohio State had been dinged for 19 fouls. Yes, Iowa was called for 14 fouls in the second half and Ohio State was nailed for 16 fouls (although Iowa's total was inflated slightly by the need to foul late in the game to extend the action). And yet there was still not much rhyme or reason to what was a foul and what was not a foul. At times, the officials let the teams (and especially Ohio State) be very handsy and get away with some very physical play; at other times, they called the slightest touch. Bad officiating wasn't the reason Iowa lost this game, but it certainly made it difficult for Iowa to get into any sort of offensive flow. (And, to be fair, their offensive comeback came in part because the Random Whistle Generator being used by the officials started targeting the Buckeyes pretty heavily.) B1G officiating: it's legendar(il)y bad!
A few other quick thoughts:
* Gabe played over twice as many minutes (15 to 7) as Woody, but was no more productive -- both had 2 points and 2 rebounds. (Woody also managed to pack in three turnovers and three fouls in his 7 minutes; that boy was busy.)
* Eric May played 21 pretty good minutes: 8 points on 3/6 shooting (2/3 from deep) and 3 rebounds.
* Marble had another miserable shooting performance: 2/11 from the field, 1/4 from 3-point range. He did contribute some solid defense, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal, so he certainly added something when he was on the court, but Iowa definitely struggles to score points when Marble can't get going on the offensive end.