Losing four straight games (and five of the last six) sucks, but what makes it feel even worse is how Iowa was in every single one of these losses until the very end but came up short. And this game was no different. Iowa, again, had multiple chances to tie or win this game down the stretch, but they just couldn't take the opportunity.
The Hawks weren't outscored in the final ten minutes for once, but they did go ice cold from the field in the final minutes of the game, right on cue. Coming back from 14 down, Iowa came storming back to take a 75-74 lead with four minutes left to play, thanks to suffocating defense and attacking the rim on offense. But that run would come to a complete stop once the clock ticked inside that four minute mark. Iowa's offense would go on to miss their next 8 field goal attempts and Anthony Clemmons would also miss a pair of important free throws.
In spite of Iowa's offensive incompetence inside the four minute mark, the Hawkeyes still had a chance to send the game into overtime after Indiana missed 3 of their last 4 free throws and Anthony Clemmons hit a three. On the ensuing inbounds play, Christian Williams used his length to make it so Nick Zeisloft couldn't catch the inbounds pass cleanly, and the ball bounced off Ziesloft's hands out of bounds. From there, Iowa called a timeout and set up a clean look from three for Clemmons. The play was well-designed and Sapp looked fairly wide open, but the ball was way short of the rim. Luckily, Adam Woodbury was waiting right under the ball like a center fielder catching a pop fly. He quickly called a timeout and Iowa still somehow had life.* (If they were a cat, they would have been dead by now.) Finally, out of the timeout, Peter Jok ran off a few screens, caught the ball cleanly in the corner, and rose up for a great look at the game-tying three. But nope. Not really even close.
Iowa was finally dead. And so were their hopes at a share of the Big Ten Championship.
*Fran drew up two great plays from those end-of-game timeouts, lending some credence to the folks in the "call a timeout" camp.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.14, Indiana 1.31
First Half Possessions: 36
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.07, Indiana 0.98
Second Half Possessions: 35
Total Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.11, Indiana 1.15
Total Possessions: 71
|2pt Near Rim
|2pt Near Rim
Two things were to blame for Iowa losing the shooting category. First, they absolutely struggled to convert anything in the painted area. They shot just 15/30 on the night, and this inability didn't just hurt their shooting, it also hurt them in their bid for second chance points.
The second big issue was Indiana's three-point shooting. They took 22 threes on the night and made 11 of them. They went with a similar strategy to the last time these two teams played, doing all their bombing in the first half and cooling down significantly in the second. The Hoosiers were 8/11 from outside in the first half, but shot just 3/11 after halftime. That first half performance was good for an outrageous 73% eFG% and it helped Indiana take a 6-point lead into the locker room that Iowa just wasn't able to completely erase in the second half.
Besides the extreme annoyance of Indiana hitting 50% of their triples on the night, this table also shows why three-pointers are usually better ideas than long twos. Shots from beyond the arc are more valuable for their extra point, and they tend to be more open because they are further from the basket and force the defense to cover more ground to contest. Iowa shot the ball well from deep against Indiana (not excluding the final two attempts of the game), but this shows why a strategy that turns more of those long twos into threes would be beneficial for the Hawkeyes. Well, that and making more of their shots from up close. That would have also helped in this one.
Turnovers (along with offensive rebounds) were an area where Iowa failed to take ahold of their advantage and do anything with it. The Hawkeyes won the turnover battle by giving the ball away just 9 times and by forcing Indiana to cough it up 13.
But as we all know quantity isn't the only thing that matters with these factors. Quality also plays a huge part, and Iowa's ability take turnovers and make them points was sorely lacking against Indiana. Off of those 13 turnovers, Iowa managed just 7 points; good (actually, bad) for 0.54 points per turnover. Iowa's average on the season is 1.25. That's not good.
What also wasn't good was the fact that the Hoosiers took Iowa's 9 turnovers on the night and capitalized on them to the tune of 18 points. That is an average of 2 whole points per turnover, and that is insane. The Hawkeyes are surrendering just 1.10 points per turnover this season, and 2 points per turnover is the highest total Iowa has allowed this year since Iowa State scored 1.88.
So, Iowa won the quantity portion of this category, but holy hell did they get smoked when it came to quality.
Advantage: Iowa (Technically)
Along with shooting, rebounding was an important key for Iowa coming into this game, considering Indiana murdered them on the glass last time these teams met. And, while not perfect, Iowa did a pretty good job of maximizing their offensive rebounds and somewhat limiting the number that Indiana came away with. But, just like with turnovers, the Hawkeyes only completed step one, and completely bungled step two.
You see, the problem with this category came after the quantitative portion was over and both teams had secured the offensive rebound. Because out of all the 18 (!) offensive rebounds Iowa corralled, they were only able to muster 7 (!) second chance points against Indiana, thanks for 2 of 10 shooting off their second chances. That translates into only 0.39 points per second chance opportunity, and that's worse than Iowa's conversion rate off of turnovers. You likely won't be surprised to know that Iowa hasn't posted a rate that terrible all season. Their previous low on the year was 0.50 vs. Florida State.
Making things worse was the fact that Indiana always seemed to turn their offensive rebounds into points. Off their 11 offensive boards, Indiana scored 14 points. That was good for 1.27 points per second chance opportunity, a total that surpassed Iowa's opponent average this season of 0.98.
This category, along with free throws, was so heavily skewed in the Hawkeyes' favor quantitatively that it helped give Iowa 11 more scoring opportunities (free throw possessions included) on the night than Indiana. The issue again game down to capitalizing on those extra chances, and Iowa just couldn't do it.
Advantage: Iowa (Technically)
Free Throw Rate
This is the one category that Iowa won in both quantity and quality, but the latter half was more about Indiana shooting just 50% from the foul line. Iowa, on the other hand, continued to look like versions of themselves from years past, as they helped make up for a shooting disparity by getting to the charity stripe. This, along with those 11 extra scoring opportunities provided by turnovers and offensive rebounds, helped Iowa keep this game close.
The problem arose when Iowa was forced to make their free throws down the stretch. The Hawkeyes made only 7 of their 12 second half free throws, and missed 4 of their last 6 attempts from the line on the night. Needless to say, a few more going through the net would have made this a different game for Iowa (though the same could also be said also about Indiana making their free ones), but Iowa's final 67% mark from the line was right in line with the 64% they're shooting from the line in conference losses this season.
Overall: Iowa Won 3 of 4 Factors
Iowa finally got a great game from their bench, and they played a big part in keeping this game close.
First of all, Christian Williams has clearly surpassed Brady Ellingson in the rotation, as the former has played minutes in the last two games that would have gone to the latter. And in his minutes against Indiana Williams actually showed a lot of promise. His 2-6 shooting doesn't look great, but he did give Iowa 8 points on the night. He put the ball on the floor a few times, finished at the rim, and drew some fouls. He also showed why having a 6'5" guy at point guard next season should have its positives, as he used his length to pull down 3 offensive rebounds, grab 2 steals, and made it tough to throw the ball up and over him on inbounds plays. He also didn't turn the ball over, which had been an issue for him in limited minutes earlier this season. This was easily the best performance of his young career.
After Williams, Ahmad Wagner and Nicholas Baer had good nights. Wagner almost logged a double-double, as he finished the night with 11 points and 9 rebounds (5 offensive). He had a lot of success down low, and showed a nice ability to seal off his man and finish at the rim. Baer, meanwhile, did all of his damage from long range, dropping two huge bombs on Indiana's defense from outside. Both threes came in the span of a little more than a minute of game time, and the second one tied the game 70.
As for the starters, Jarrod Uthoff led the team in scoring, as he is wont to do. But, again, his 18 points required 17 field goal and 8 free throw attempts just to get there. Not that Uthoff's 18 points weren't valuable (of course they were), but his 1-5 shooting from three-point range didn't help Iowa, nor did his 3-7 shooting around the rim, or his 1-5 on long twos.
He did help Iowa in other ways that weren't him shooting the ball, though, as he gave Iowa 8 rebounds (2 offensive), 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocked shots. The only thing missing was the long range shooting.
And speaking of long range shooting, Peter Jok only got off 4 three-point attempts on the night. He did make 2 of those tries from deep, but Iowa could have really used more looks from beyond the arc from their sharpshooter. It also would have been helpful if he had made more than just 1 of his 4 tries from near the rim, too. But that brings me to the topic of Yogi Ferrell, who was assigned to guard Jok both times Indiana played Iowa this season. When we talk about the type of defenders Jok struggles with, we usually identify them as "strong" and "physical." But Ferrell is neither of those things and he has held Jok in check both times this season by relying on his quickness. Sure, Jok has the size advantage, but he still doesn't seem to know how to utilize that other than shooting a contested jumper over the top of his smaller defender. He's shown flashes of implementing a post game this season, but that is still too sporadic and wildly inconsistent. They tried that once in this game against Indiana, but Ferrell held his ground and Jok was forced to pass the ball. All of this was a long-winded version of me saying Jok still has improvements to make on his offensive game. He's made huge strides this season, but Iowa needs him to continue to become a more complete all-around scorer for next season.
With Jok largely absent from the offense for most of this game, the remainder of the scoring responsibility was passed off to Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell. Clemmons gave Iowa 15 points, but required 15 field goal and 2 free throw attempts to get there. Gesell gave Iowa 7 points and 6 assists, but was limited to just 21 minutes on court due to foul trouble. (He actually fouled out at the end.) And Gesell's foul trouble hurt Iowa badly in this one, as the offense just didn't run as smoothly with him on the bench. Iowa's second half run coincided with a span of about four minutes where Mike Gesell continually attacked the middle of the defense and handed out 5 of his 6 assists. He was sent to the bench with 4 fouls with three minutes remaining in the game, and wouldn't emerge until there was 27 seconds left on the clock. Iowa's offense had already gone a few minutes without scoring while he was on the court, but when he was on the bench, the offense looked like the disjointed blob that we've come to expect in crunch time.
So that's that. The collapse is complete. Iowa now has exactly a 0.0000% chance of winning a Big Ten Championship this season, and who knows how far they are going to fall in the seeding for the Big Ten Tournament. A few weeks ago this team was looking at an outright conference title, a #1 seed in Des Moines for the NCAA Tournament, and Jarrod Uthoff and Fran McCaffery were easy picks for Big Ten Player and Coach of the Year. Now, all we can do is stand around in awe at the burning rubble that is left of this once-pristine season.
This group of seniors deserved a better send off than this. I just hope this won't be the lasting legacy of this team. I hope they have one last run left in them for tournament season.