One team looked prepared and ready for the game on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament -- unfortunately, it wasn't Iowa. In fairness, the game didn't start completely terribly for Iowa -- Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff each made their first 3 point attempts of the game and Iowa had the game tied at 13-all six and a half minutes into the game. Then the bottom fell out. Villanova outscored Iowa 41-16 over the remainder of the half, a span which included separate Villanova runs of 8-0, 11-0, and 8-0. The Villanova that appeared over those final 13 minutes was an all-conquering juggernaut and Iowa offered no resistance.
It's hard to say which was more dominant in the first half: the Villanova offense or the Villanova defense. The Wildcats' defense swarmed Iowa, forcing harrying Iowa into 40.0% shooting from the floor (41.7% from 3-point range) and eight turnovers -- almost all of which seemed to turn into easy run-outs for Villanova. Iowa missed every sort of shot imaginable -- 3s, long 2s, free throws, layups. Oh, the missed layups. So many missed layups. That's not exactly a new phenomenon for Iowa this season, but it was certainly on full display in the first half. Meanwhile, Villanova seemingly couldn't miss -- they made 60.6% of their field goals in the first half, including 58.3% of their 3-point attempts, and frankly those numbers feel low.
The second half went better for Iowa -- at least insofar as they managed to outscore Villanova 39-33 -- but it didn't really matter. The damage done by Villanova in the first half was insurmountable.
Jarrod Uthoff led Iowa with 16 points on 6/12 shooting (2/5 from deep), but most of those points (and attempts) came well after the game was decided. Peter Jok had 11 points on 4/12 shooting (2/7 from deep), but again most of his production came in the second half. Ditto Anthony Clemmons, who had 9 points after sitting the final 17+ minutes of the first half with two fouls. His play was sloppy and erratic before the two fouls, but his defensive presence might have been nice when Villanova was setting Iowa's defense aflame in the first half. (A timeout or two to slow Nova's run(s) also might have been nice, but hahahahaha who are we kidding.)
The true hero of the game for Iowa (such as it was) was Nicholas Baer, who had 15 points on 7/13 shooting and 4 rebounds and was active, engaged, and aggressive whenever he was on the floor. He was a bright spot for Iowa in a sea of misery.
This was an ugly blowout loss and a bitterly disappointing way to end the season -- a season that contained some sensational highs for Hawkeye hoops. It's also a miserable way to say goodbye to a senior class that was integral to Iowa making three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament and winning 89 games over the last four years. In time, we'll remember this class for the good things they did. In the moment, there's just hurt.