Remember a few nights ago when Iowa shot the lights out and cruised to an easy victory over Marist?
Well, guess what happens when you put together pretty much the exact opposite shooting performance -- and do so against a much, much, much better opponent?
Iowa lost to Louisville, 83-53, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and, honestly, the game was every bit as lopsided as that final score would suggest. Iowa trailed 40-23 at halftime after a late Louisville run to end the half and never really got closer. Absolutely dreadful shooting did torpedoed Iowa's hopes of making the Sweet 16 -- 33.3% from the field and a ghastly 6.3% (1/16... and the one make came deep in garbage time) from three-point range. Shooting like that is death to a team that relies on a potent offense to carry it through games.
But outside of a few moments at the start of the game, Iowa could never really get a foothold in the game. Louisville played stout defense and their physicality definitely seemed to get Iowa out of sync. There were several plays where Iowa struggled mightily to get anything approaching a good look from the floor. Then even when they did get good looks -- open three-point attempts, lay-ups -- they somehow managed to miss several of those, too. They looked like a flustered team and one that was pressing too hard to try to and make something happen.
And as far as the physicality goes... yeah, they seemed to let Louisville get away with a lot, but there weren't any glaring disparities in fouls (26 to 23 for Louisville) or free throw attempts (25 to 20 for Louisville) and, overall, but overall the officiating didn't seem particularly skewed toward -- or against -- one team. They were slightly inept -- college officiating! -- but they were inept in a way that didn't seem to penalize one team much more than the other. Iowa lost because they were spectacularly bad at putting the ball in the net in this game.
Well, and also because they weren't very good at stopping the other team from putting the ball in the net. Louisville scored 83 points and shot 53.1% from the floor, 47.4% from deep... and those shooting percentages were actually down from the first half (when Louisville shot 64% from the floor). It's tough to beat anyone when they shoot that well, obviously. Nor was this particularly shocking; Iowa hasn't been any kind of lock-down defensive unit all year. In Big Ten play, they allowed teams to score 72.0 ppg and shoot 44.7% from the floor (2nd worst in the league), including 40.5% from deep (worst in the league). They were able to offset those defensive shortcomings with their own offense (75.5 ppg and 47.5% FG, best in the league). The only way they were going to beat a team like Louisville was probably in a shootout; unfortunately, they forgot to pack their bullets for this game.
Freshman Ally Disterhoft was one of the lone bright spots for the Hawkeyes in this game; she kept Iowa's offense afloat (to the extent that it was capable of floating) in the first half with 10 points and finished with a team-high 15 points. She also added eight rebounds. Her development over the course of Big Ten play (and in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments) has been remarkable and it's thrilling to think of how good she might become as she continues to develop over the course of her Iowa career. Samantha Logic finished with 12 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals... but also a nightmarish 9 turnovers. She's the straw that stirs the drink for Iowa, but Louisville kept her bottled up pretty effectively in this game and forced her into an uncharacteristic number of mistakes. Senior Theairra Taylor, whose late season heroics were crucial to Iowa's run to the Big Ten Tournament finals and a #6 seed in the NCAA Tournament, was the only other Hawkeye in double figures, with 10 points on 4/11 shooting. It wasn't how she wanted her career to end, I'm sure, but overall her final stretch of games as a Hawkeye was outstanding -- and well-deserved after the brutal injury luck (three (!) ACL injuries) she endured earlier in her Iowa career. She'll certainly be missed on next year's Iowa squad.
This was a miserable way to end the season, no question, but it shouldn't overshadow the fact that it was still a very strong season for Iowa.
Iowa won 27 games -- no mean feat -- and finished 5th in the Big Ten in the regular season. They played four games in four days at the Big Ten Tournament and made the finals against Nebraska -- and gave them a hell of a challenge there before just coming up short. And they yet again advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
As always, getting past that second round hump -- and into the Sweet 16 (and beyond) -- remains the hurdle that Lisa Bluder's Hawkeyes can't quite clear, which is frustrating. The seeding and bracketing didn't do Iowa many favors this year -- Louisville was far and away the best #3 seed and had a very legitimate case to be seeded higher than that -- but that's also not a new complaint when it comes to the women's NCAA Tournament. Still, as frustrating as it is that Iowa hasn't been able to clear that second round hurdle, Bluder has assembled a very solid program and one that returns a lot of pieces from this team and should again be very competitive next year. There are far, far worse places to be, program-wise.