They did it again. For the umpteenth time in a row, Iowa was plagued by the same issues that have been at the heart of these recent spate of losses. The offense looked incapable of scoring any time they weren't allowed to come right down the court and attack the rim off the dribble. When the Hawkeyes were forced to run their half-court sets, they looked uncomfortable, and it showed with their terrible shooting and the amount of turnovers they gave away.
Despite how bad they were playing, though, Ohio State wasn't exactly putting together the prettiest game, either. So even when Iowa shot a sub-40% eFG% in the first half, they were only down 5 points at halftime thanks to winning the other three factors. This allowed for the Hawkeyes to give us another sense of false hope, as they did their usual routine of pulling ahead late in the game, only to spontaneously combust in the closing minutes.
I'm not really sure what's left to say at this point. The offense is broken and the team appears to just lose their collective cool when the game is on the line. I'm not sure what the fix is.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.84, Ohio State 0.98
First Half Possessions: 36
Note: Please note that the offensive rebounding and free throw rates have errors in this chart, and it was too late for me to fix them by the time I caught the errors. Thus, Iowa's offensive rebounding rate should be 37.5% and their free throw rate should be 46.2%. Ohio State's should be 33.3% and 25%.
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.05, Ohio State 1.02
Second Half Possessions: 32
Total Points Per Possessions: Iowa 0.94, Ohio State 1.00
Total Possessions: 68
|Iowa||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
|OSU||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
Iowa's shooting was bogged down by an inability to shoot from distance and by the fact that Ohio State blocked 6 shot attempts on the night. The underlying bigger problem seemed to reside in the fact that Iowa's half-court offense is a hot mess right now. When Iowa can't get out on the break and score in transition, or if they can't get a clear lane to the basket, they aren't going to score. When the Hawkeyes were forced into a long possession against the Buckeyes, they seemed uneasy and made really bad decisions that a team this heavy on veterans shouldn't make. For example, an Adam Woodbury lane violation negated a Jarrod Uthoff three. And even Uthoff had no idea how much time was on the shot clock a few times. Once it led to a violation, and the other time Mike Gesell bailed him out by making a last ditch effort to drive to the basket and get fouled before it expired. With 6 seconds left on the shot clock, Uthoff shouldn't be looking to pass the ball. He should be looking to score.
Ohio State didn't even shoot the ball all that well in this one. They pretty much beat Iowa in shooting because they finished on their layups more often and because they hit a few key threes in the final minutes of the game.
But, again, the big issue here is that Iowa's half-court offense is broken right now. They look like last year's offense, only they don't have Aaron White to bail them out in the paint. And now the category that Iowa could almost count on winning in just about every game this season has abandoned them. The team that only lost the eFG% battle twice from the beginning of the season up until the Maryland game, has now been out shot in six out of their last nine games. And, let me remind you, this Iowa team has only won 1 game all season in which they haven't had a higher eFG% than the other team at the end of the game.
Advantage: Ohio State
The other mainstay of Iowa's once stellar offense, a low turnover rate, has also abandoned the Hawkeyes. It continued to be an issue on Sunday against Ohio State, as Iowa gave away the ball 15 times on the day. Again, the turnovers also looked to be partially caused by paralysis anytime Iowa didn't have a clear look at the basket and they were forced to run their half-court offense. Even on passes that weren't turnovers, there were times when Iowa delivered passes that were off the mark, causing the potential shooter to bobble the ball and allowing the defender to rotate over and take away the once open look. And, again, there were also the aforementioned lane violation and shot clock issues plaguing Iowa in this game, too.
Luckily, Iowa's turnover damage was minimized by the fact that a young (key word here "young") Ohio State team also gave the ball up 15 times in this one. Iowa forced 7 steals on the day, and was able to outscore the Buckeyes 18-15 off all the turnovers both teams had. Overall, Iowa's defense forcing turnovers was able to help offset the fact that they gave up the ball so much on the other end of the court. But this category still wasn't able to compensate for the shooting disparity.
The offensive glass was full of missed opportunities for Iowa in this one. The Hawkeyes had the offensive rebounding advantage in both halves of basketball, but failed to capitalize on those second chances in every half. In the first 20 minutes of play, Iowa had 6 offensive rebounds and managed only 3 points off of them. Ohio State, on the other hand, scored 4 points off their 3 first half offensive rebounds.
Iowa did better on offense after halftime, as they scored 7 points off another 6 offensive rebounds. However, the defense then had issues, giving up 10 second chance points on 7 offensive rebounds. The dagger was a corner three that Kam Williams buried with a minute left to put Ohio State up 66-62. That three-pointer came after Adam Woodbury couldn't quite hold onto a defensive rebound he was battling Marc Loving for, and Anthony Clemmons couldn't quite save the ball before it went out of bounds.
So, yes, Iowa won the quantity portion of this factor, but they struggled mightily with the quality. And that helps explain why Iowa technically won two of the four factors and tied one, but still lost the game.
Free Throw Rate
Iowa's attacking nature in this game helped them earn their way to the foul line for 22 shots. They even made 17 of those 22 tries, which helped them offset the shooting problem to an extent. But it clearly wasn't (and hasn't been) enough.
Free throw rate has become what shooting was for this team earlier in the season, as Iowa continues to win this battle on a nightly basis. They haven't lost this factor since the Maryland game, but this strategy hasn't provided the spectacular offensive results that the shooting did earlier in the year.
Overall: Iowa Won 2 of 4 Factors
From a player standpoint, Mike Gesell was Iowa's best player in this game. Coming into Sunday afternoon, Mike Gesell was making less than 40% of his field goal attempts near the rim for the month of February. He helped raise that percentage to 41.7% by finishing on 5 of his 8 attempts from close up on the night. Despite getting the game-tying shot blocked, Gesell was the reason Iowa was competitive in this game. His 10 first half points were extremely valuable, as Jarrod Uthoff was inconsistent and Peter Jok was in foul trouble. But then Fran took Mike out of the game with about 3:30 left in the first half, in an attempt to rest him and likely avoid him picking up his third foul. As a result, Iowa's offense scored just 2 points without him until halftime. Ohio State, meanwhile, scored 6 and took a 5-point lead into the break.
After the intermission, Gesell only scored 6 points, but he seemed like the only one on offense who wanted the ball at the end of the game. This was very close to being "the Mike Gesell game." Instead, it just goes down as another in a string of late game collapses.
Besides Gesell, Jarrod Uthoff still got his numbers -- as he seems to do every game -- but he's still nowhere near as efficient as he was for the first three months of the season. I mean, it took him 14 field goal and 6 free throw attempts to log 16 points for the game. The big issue with his game right now is his three-point shooting slump. After shooting between 45-47% from November through January, Uthoff has made just 24% of his threes in February. That's a huge issue for this team, and a big part of why Iowa's shooting has been so terrible recently (aside from sub-40% shooting near the rim for Mike Gesell).
Uthoff did provide 3 steals for the Hawkeyes on defense, but he was unable to block any shots. That points us to another problem, as Iowa didn't block a single shot in this game -- the first time that has happened all season. And, if I remember the CBS broadcast correctly, this was the first time in 94 straight games that Iowa had failed to do so. In a game settled by 4 points, a blocked shot or two could have made a huge difference.
Similar to Uthoff, Peter Jok scored double-digit points, but did so in a less-than-efficient manner. Jok gave Iowa 12 points, but required 13 field goal and 3 free throw attempts to do so. Despite Ohio State having issues with three-point defense this season, Jok failed to do much from three-point range. He made just 1 of his 5 attempts on the day, and was not much of a threat in transition or running off screens. He did play with foul trouble, but as Adam alluded to in his recap, Fran's quick trigger with guys is a choice and not a axiomatic rule that must be followed. If Jok had played more than 23 minutes, he probably would have attempted a few more threes (or just had more scoring opportunities, in general), and that may have helped Iowa just get over the hump.
Finally, Dom Uhl also gave Iowa a bit of a presence off the bench, finishing with 6 points and 6 rebounds in 17 minutes of play. He earned his way to the line for 5 free ones (although, 2 attempts were technically for an injured Ahmad Wagner) and hit a key three-pointer with 6:51 left to give Iowa a 6-point lead.
Moving onto the bigger picture, with this loss in the books, Iowa no longer controls their destiny when it comes to winning at least a share of the Big Ten title. With Indiana only at three losses, the Hawkeyes not only need to beat the Hoosiers on Tuesday and Michigan on Saturday, but they then need Maryland to also beat Indiana on Sunday. The chance at winning an outright championship is done, but the Hawkeyes could still win a share of the championship. Of course, if that scenario were to play out, we could potentially see a five-way tie for first place if Michigan State and Wisconsin also win their remaining two games. If Indiana wins any of their remaining two games, though, they are the outright Big Ten champs.
So the dream is still alive, albeit, a little less shiny than it was a few weeks ago. But the fact that Iowa even still has a chance to share the title is a miracle given how bad they have played lately. But if they can't find a way to fix the offense, Indiana could very well shoot them out of their own building tomorrow night.