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DAYTON 82, IOWA 77: COMEBACK COMES UP SHORT

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A late Iowa rally goes for naught.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa rallied from a 14-point second half deficit against Dayton in their first game of the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, FL, but came up short at the end, losing 82-77 to the Flyers.  Iowa took a 70-69 lead -- their first lead in the game since a 25-24 Iowa lead with 9 minutes to go in the first half -- on a Brady Ellingson 3-pointer with just under four minutes to play. A pair of made free throws and a triple from Mike Gesell pushed Iowa's lead to 75-71 with 2:35 to play.  Unfortunately, that was the last field goal Iowa made in the game.  Dayton ended the game on an 11-2 run, sending Iowa crashing into the loser's bracket of the tournament.

Iowa started sluggishly -- they didn't get their first bucket until Jarrod Uthoff drained a jumper just under four minutes into the game.  Uthoff followed that with a pair of three-pointers and a sharp assist on an Adam Woodbury made basket.  At that point it looked like we might be witnessing a monster Jarrod Uthoff game, but it... wasn't.  Uthoff did score a team-high 18 points, but he did so on just 6/15 shooting (including 2/8 shooting inside the 3-point arc).  Despite his size advantage over the defenders on him, Uthoff struggled to get much space after that early flurry.  In fact, when Iowa made its rally in the second half, it surprisingly did so with Uthoff on the bench (Nicholas Baer provided some good minutes for Iowa off the bench, chipping in just two points, but six rebounds and some solid defense).

Dayton jumped out to 45-39 lead at the break, thanks to some strong shooting -- the Flyers shot 45.2% from the field, drained five three-pointers and a whopping 12/15 free throws.  Foul trouble was a key subplot for Iowa in the first half -- Gesell picked up two fouls in the first two minutes... and sat the last 18 minutes of the half.  Woodbury picked up two fouls in the first half as well and sat the final 10 minutes of the half.  Their absences were acutely felt -- Iowa's offense bogged down often without Gesell to help run the show and Iowa's defense (particularly in the paint) was woeful without Woodbury's presence in the post.

Three-point shooting helped keep Iowa close in the first half -- and in the game as a whole.  Iowa made 6/13 three-pointers in the first half and 6/11 in the second half; it's hard to believe that Iowa could made 12 three-pointers in a game and lose... but they also shot just 15/38 (39.4%) from 2-point range and a sickly 11/17 from the free throw line (which included a handful of costly misses on the front end of one-and-ones).  Iowa's shooting in the paint was especially poor -- they failed to convert a stunning number of good looks, which proved costly.

The referees are sure to be a popular subplot from this game and there's no doubt that they made several calls that were... dubious... if not outright wrong (a foul on Clemmons on what looked like a clean strip of the ball late in the game was especially costly), but there were a lot of whistles on both ends (21 fouls for Dayton, 22 for Iowa) and Iowa's defense was simply too poor for too long in this game.  Iowa's interior defense without Woodbury is a scary, scary sight and Dayton exposed that flaw repeatedly in the first half.  Dayton's quick, aggressive guards caused a lot of problems for Iowa on the defensive end (the ball movement that was so beautiful a week ago against Marquette was in short supply tonight) and were wildly productive on offense: Scoochie Smith, Charles Cooke, and Darrell Davis combined for 49 points (on 14/26 shooting, including 7/14 long-range shooting), 11 rebounds, and 8 assists, against just 3 turnovers.  They gave Iowa fits all night long.

This was also a game where some of Iowa's earlier flaws finally came back to haunt them.  We'd noted Iowa's struggles rebounding and getting to the free throw line, but they were able to overcome those flaws against the likes of Coppin State, Gardner-Webb, and Marquette.  Not so tonight -- Iowa got outrebounded 39-33, a margin that was far bigger until Iowa's late comeback.  They got to the free throw line just 17 times; Dayton took 27 shots from the charity stripe, making 22 of them.  We knew rebounding and drawing fouls would be an issue after Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni departed, but it's been an even bigger issue than we expected and it's not clear what the answers are.

Iowa returns to action on Friday night, facing Notre Dame (who was upset by Monmouth earlier Thursday night) at 6 PM CT.  ESPN3 has TV/streaming coverage.