I won't lie, I don't want to write this. I didn't want to spend the hour it takes to enter every piece of information I collect for every game to create these charts. In general, I don't want to think about or relive this game or really even think about sports right now. I have better things to do with my time. Instead of bothering myself with sports, I could continue reading War and Peace; I'm over halfway done with the novel. If I wanted to let my brain rot after watching that mess, I could just watch TV; National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is on, and I love that movie. Hell, if I was really smart, I would just go to bed early and catch up on my sleep.
Yet, here I am, writing this -- reliving the painful ending to this stupid basketball game. Why? I'm not sure. I could probably take the easy way out and say that a heart-breaking loss like this doesn't need an in-depth recap. No one wants to relive this collapse, right? Or maybe not. Maybe I'm doing this as a means of catharsis; a way to come to terms with this loss, so that I can flush it and move on, rather than letting it fester below the surface.
Whatever the case, I'm writing this and you are reading it, so we are going to go through this together. Here it goes.
The night started off wonderful. Iowa was up 14 points at halftime, and we were 20 minutes from labeling this "The Jarrod Uthoff Game." Then the second half started, and the anxiety kicked in.
To tell the truth, though, Iowa wasn't terrible to start the second period. The offense continued to keep pace, even when Iowa State's offense was starting to hit on all cylinders. Kenpom had Iowa's win probability sitting around 95% as deep into the second half as 8 minutes in and even at 10 minutes in. But then it happened. Iowa's offense became stagnant, as nobody was penetrating the Iowa State defense and attempting to get to the basket. What was more disheartening was the fact that Jarrod Uthoff -- Iowa's best player, and the guy that needs to step up when the offense is sinking -- was basically invisible after halftime. And the Cyclone run was on.
The worst part about all of this is that we knew an Iowa State run was coming at some point. We could feel it in our collective gut, and the anxiety was damn near crippling. After falling behind by 20 at one point in the second half, Iowa State had gotten the lead down to 1 with just under 6 minutes left to play. But then Iowa actually looked like they may have weathered the storm, as they were able to push the lead back to 8 with 2:36 remaining on the clock and their win probability had spiked back up to about 98%. Of course, the Cyclones kept charging and Iowa's lead was down to 3 with a minute left in the game. 9 seconds later, that lead dwindled back to 1 point, and then about 40 seconds later, the Hawkeyes found themselves trailing by 1 point and their win probability had dropped to 36%.
But Iowa still had 9 seconds left to take the lead, which was more than enough time. Fran McCaffery was not eligible to take a timeout in this situation, and no one on the court chose to use the final timeout to draw up a play. That's probably understandable, given Fran's stance on end-of-game timeouts in the past. I would have preferred the team had used a timeout, considering how clunky the offense had looked in the second half, but they chose not to. That's their decision to make, not mine. So with little time remaining, Mike Gesell ran the ball up the floor and found Jarrod Uthoff for what was actually a pretty good look for three. Unfortunately, it clanged off the rim and fell harmlessly to the Hilton Coliseum floor. Thus, the 98% win probability collapse was complete.
This game sucked, and it leaves an even worse taste in my mouth than the 2013 game where Iowa also conveniently blew a late-game lead.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.20, Iowa State 0.86
First Half Possessions: 41
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.97, Iowa State 1.41
Second Half Possessions: 34
Total Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.10, Iowa State 1.11
Total Possessions: 75
|2pt Near Rim
|2pt Near Rim
This game was a tale of two halves for Iowa in every category, including shooting. The Hawkeyes were lights out from the floor in the first half, averaging 1.20 points per possession, thanks to the offense getting high-percentage looks at the basket and knocking down open threes. That all changed in the second half, as Iowa's eFG% dropped from 69% before halftime to 44% after halftime. And the culprit was Iowa's offense failing to adjust Iowa State's increased aggressiveness on defense.
The offense was fine for about the first 5 minutes of the second half, when Peter Jok was single-handedly keeping them afloat with his long range shooting. But then Jok's hot streak was interrupted by an accidental poke in the eye, and he had to leave the game for a moment to a chorus of boos. If momentum is a real phenomenon, it was officially dead after that.
With Jok no longer doing the scoring, and Uthoff being actively denied the ball and doubled when he did get it, Iowa failed to do anything else to adjust to Iowa State's defense. The failure to adjust meant the offense bogged down and settled for a ridiculous amount of contested jump shots.
You can see that Iowa State's shooting tendencies never changed all that much whether the offense was performing good or bad. Iowa's, on the other hand, differed dramatically after the intermission. The ball movement was lazy, Adam Woodbury looked uncomfortable when he got the ball in the post, Mike Gesell wasn't really attacking the basket quite as much, and Jarrod Uthoff couldn't manage more than fadeaway jump shots when he did touch the rock. Peter Jok was hot to start the second half, but he disappeared offensively after the eye poke. Credit a lot of this to Iowa State's defense, which really stepped up the pressure in the second half and had Iowa's offense flustered. The evidence is in the change of shot selection.
As for Iowa State's part, their shooting was way off in the first half, but the offense came to life in the second half. Matt Thomas and Jameel McKay did damage all night long. The former was 6-10 on the night from the field, and all 6 of his makes were threes. Jameel McKay, meanwhile, shot 10-12 from the field en route to 20 points. The second half saw Monte Morris and Georges Niang come alive, and that ended up being enough to push Iowa State over the top.
Still, even with how bad Iowa's offense looked for the final 10 minutes of play, the Hawkeyes actually still held a slight advantage in overall shooting, thanks to their blazing hot first half. Little victories, I guess.
Advantage: Iowa (Thank you, first half.)
Turnovers were a big part of why Iowa got out to such a huge lead. The Hawkeyes were able to get their hands in the passing lanes quite a bit before halftime and their defense also forced the Cyclones into a number of travel calls in the first 20 minutes. In total, Iowa State had 12 turnovers in the first half of this game, and on 29% of their possessions. That's a lot, and that is uncharacteristic for them. Needless to say, the second half was much different, as the Cyclones looked more like their usual low-turnover self and cut that total down to just one all half, and to just 2.9% of their possessions.
Iowa, meanwhile, had turnover problems in both halves. Their 9 first half turnovers were overshadowed by Iowa State's 12, but that changed after halftime, when Iowa had 8 more turnovers and Iowa State only had one. And, as you no doubt remember, three of those came on their last three possessions of the game. Two of those three were a direct result of Iowa failing to handle Iowa State's full court pressure (call a timeout before the five-second call, Mike!) and all three of them led to Iowa State's final 7 points that ultimately gave them the win.
Advantage: Iowa State
Neither team allowed the other to grab a whole lot of second chance opportunities in the first half, but all of that changed after halftime. In the final 20 minutes, Iowa was able to grab 38% of their misses thanks mainly to Dom Uhl and Jarrod Uthoff, while Iowa State grabbed 48% thanks to Jameel McKay being an absolute freak of nature.
The huge difference in the offensive rebounding after halftime came when each team got their second chance looks. Iowa, being ice cold from the field in the second half, managed just 6 points on 2 of 5 shooting from the field and 2-2 shooting from the line after an offensive rebound. In addition to missing shots on three of their second chance opportunities in the final 20 minutes, Iowa also turned the ball over twice on those possessions. For those keeping track at home, that's 0.75 points per second chance opportunity. And that's not good.
Iowa State meanwhile, scored 14 points in the second half off of offensive rebounds. They did so on 6-10 shooting from the floor, and managed 1.4 points per second chance opportunity. So Iowa State not only came away with a bigger percentage of their own misses than Iowa did, but they also capitalized on them at a much higher rate, too. Add that to their one turnover and their 55% eFG%, and that is how you manage 1.41 points per possession in a half.
Advantage: Iowa State
Free Throw Rate
There isn't much to say about this category. Neither team creates a lot of opportunities from the line, in general, and they didn't start doing so in this game. Iowa won the first half battle, but, along with everything else, lost it in the second half. It's hard to draw fouls when the offense consists of throwing up bad jump shots on a regular basis, and that is what Iowa's second half offense was doing. The Hawkeyes did make 90% of their free throws when they got to the line, which is good compared to Iowa State's 54.5%. Of course, Iowa State still won the game, so whatever.
Advantage: Iowa State
Overall: Iowa Won 1 out of 4 Factors
Jarrod Uthoff was the clearly the player of the game for Iowa. His 30 first half points on 11-13 shooting (5-6 from three) was the best half of college basketball I can remember seeing by an Iowa player in my lifetime. It was the All-American type of talent that we all knew Uthoff possessed finally coming out on the national stage. His versatility was on full display, as he knocked down threes, hit mid-range jumpers, took his man off the dribble and slammed it home, and swatted shots on the defensive end.
But that second half. How do we account for it? Sure, Iowa State switched up their defense on Uthoff. Georges Niang seemed to be the primary defender on Uthoff in the second half, instead of Abdel Nader -- the guy Uthoff embarrassed quite a bit in the first half. Where Uthoff was able to post up and get the ball before halftime, Niang did a good job of denying him the ball after halftime. When Uthoff did receive the ball, Iowa State defenders were collapsing on him and he was unable to make any move to the basket and settled for fade away jumpers that weren't falling.
But again, how do we account for Uthoff's second half? On one hand, Iowa needs to have someone else who can punish an opponent for focusing so much on Uthoff; Peter Jok did that well for the first 5 minutes of the second half, but fell off a cliff afterward. On the other hand, Uthoff is too good to be held to 2 points on 1-7 shooting in one half of basketball, defense be damned. Whether that is a failure on Uthoff's part to get more aggressive, on Fran for not making better adjustments to Iowa State's defense, or both; it doesn't matter. Either way, your team's best player cannot go missing for an entire half of play against a quality team. I don't want to take anything away from Jarrod's amazing first half, but that second half was disappointing on so many levels and not just on his account.
Outside of Uthoff's first half, Peter Jok's opening act in the second half was quite fun to watch. He came out of the locker room after intermission and immediately scored 14 points on 5-6 shooting from the field (4-4 from three-point range) in just 5 minutes before having to leave the game for a bit due to being inadvertently poked in the eye. Post-eye poke, Jok scored only 2 points on 1-3 shooting for the final 15 minutes of play. For the game, he was responsible for 18 of Iowa's points and he didn't hurt them with turnovers or on the defensive side of the ball, so that was good. He was unable to help Iowa when they needed scoring later in the game, but I think that was a result of Iowa failing to attack the defense and that's not really Jok's game. That's more of the point guard's duty on this roster the way it is currently constructed.
Speaking of the point guard, Mike Gesell's 2-7 shooting after halftime also killed Iowa's offense. Of course, most of those attempts were of the long two variety, but he did miss what would have been a nice up-and-under layup in the second half that really would have helped. The positive for Gesell in this game was that he had 8 assists. The negative was that he had 5 turnovers. Only two of those came in the second half, though. The main issue with Gesell's game was that he was not active enough in probing the defense in the second half. We saw it a little more in the final five minutes of the game, and that's when Iowa's offense started to look like they may survive Iowa State's comeback. During that time, Gesell scored all 6 of his points by making two layups and hitting his only two free throw attempts of the game. Unfortunately, we didn't see much of that until Iowa State was already within one possession of tying the game.
Finally, we get to Adam Woodbury, who had a similar fate to Uthoff in this one. Woody scored 10 points on 4-4 shooting from the field and 2-2 shooting from the line in the first half. That changed to 2 points on 1-5 shooting from the field in the second half. Adam's touch around the rim abandoned him in the second half, and he just looked less comfortable and less under control when he had the ball after halftime. He also went from logging 4 defensive rebounds in the first half to tallying 0 in the second. Connecting on one of those shots or grabbing just one more offensive rebound could have been the difference in this one.
Finally, a few bullet points.
- Jarrod Uthoff actually made his way onto Kenpom's player of the year list after this game. He's currently #9.
- Staying with Kenpom, Iowa moved up from 18th to 14th in Kenpom's eyes after this loss. Of course, Iowa currently has 3 losses and is ranked 323rd in Kenpom's luck rating. Whether you believe that this number actually signifies luck or not, I think we can all agree that this team is better than their 7-3 record.
- But, seriously, I'm tired of Iowa under Fran McCaffery being "unlucky." In his six seasons at Iowa here are his Kenpom luck rankings in order from 2011 to this season: 338th, 145th, 255th, 347th, 203rd, and 323rd. That means, counting this season to date, Iowa has been one of the "unluckiest" teams in college basketball 50% of the time under McCaffery. Only once has his team finished above the national average in this area. At some point, this close game stuff ceases to be luck and is representative of an issue with the coaching staff. I love Fran, but this needs to be something he re-evaluates if he wants to take the program to the next level.
- A random observation about Dom Uhl: he gets called for a lot of over-the-back/pushing off fouls. I'm almost tempted to start keeping track. He needs to work on his technique of getting in position, rather than going over guys.
Next up Iowa faces Drake at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. The Bulldogs and Tennessee Tech are the remaining tuneups before things get real. Hopefully the team can grow from this, and maybe Fran will finally look at how he chooses to manage the end of close games. That's all we can hope to gain from this.