Iowa's season ended yesterday, and it did so in brutally horrific fashion. After spending the first seven minutes of the game going back and forth with Villanova -- in a game which was briefly tied at 13 apiece -- Iowa came apart at the seams and found themselves down 54-29 at halftime.
What went wrong for Iowa? Well, everything.
The Hawkeyes didn't win a single factor in the first half. They missed eight layups, gave up eight turnovers that led to 12 Villanova points, came away with zero second chance points, and missed both of their free throw attempts for the half. Just about the only thing that went right in that half for Iowa was the fact that they shot 5-12 from long range. Imagine how ugly that first half would have been if they didn't hit five threes?
Villanova, on the other hand, shot a 71% eFG%, thanks to making seven three-pointers and not missing eight layups. They also only had four empty possessions via turnover, scored five second chance points off their four offensive rebounds, and made all seven of their first half free throws. If that sounds like the polar opposite of Iowa, that's because it was. And the disparity showed in the points per possession (PPP) totals, as Iowa finished the first twenty minutes with 0.81, while Villanova scored 1.52.
For some perspective, the only half of defensive basketball that was this bad in terms of PPP this season was the first half in Bloomington, where Indiana put up 1.51. Combine that with the fact that Iowa also played their second worst half of offensive basketball this season (remember, they scored 0.63 PPP in the first half at Purdue), and it's pretty easy to understand how Iowa dug themselves a 25-point hole by halftime.
The second half went better, and Iowa did outscore Nova by 6 after the break. However, by that time, it was too little too late, and I'm not sure the Wildcats were trying nearly as hard in the second half. What I am sure about, though, is that this game sucked and was painful to watch. Blowout losses are never fun, but the misery is compounded when it's the last game of the season for a senior class that accomplished so much.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.81, Villanova 1.52
First Half Possessions: 36
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.16, Villanova 0.99
Second Half Possessions: 33
Total Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.98, Villanova 1.26
Total Possessions: 69
(Shot chart via ESPN. Solid circle indicates a made field goal.)
|Iowa||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
|Villanova||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
Entering Sunday's game, Villanova was a team that attempted 44% of their field goals from three-point range. And while they didn't quite attempt half of their shots from deep in this one, they didn't need to. Instead, the Wildcats just didn't miss much of anything they shot on the day. They made 75% of their layups (contested and uncontested), they connected on 36% of their two-point jumpers, they shot 53% from downtown, and they made 77% of their free throws. No matter what Iowa did defensively, it didn't matter; Villanova shot the ball at a ridiculous rate. And that continued to be the case in the second half, when, despite being outscored by six points after halftime, Villanova still shot 64% from the floor. Other things were certainly off in the second half for the Wildcats, but the shooting most definitely wasn't.
Now, if you want a positive for Iowa's shooting, you can point to them making 50% of their two-point jumpers. If you want anymore positives, you better just close the page right now. There were no more positives when it came to shooting. Sure, Iowa made five of their 12 first half attempts from outside, but they came out and shot 2-12 after halftime. And while the Hawkeyes only missed a single layup in the second half, it wasn't enough to offset the eight they missed in the first twenty minutes of play.
Basically, Iowa could never get everything to go right for them in unison, while seemingly every shot Villanova took went in. When that's the case, bad things happen. And guess what? Bad things happened.
If the shooting disparity wasn't bad enough, the turnovers added a whole new layer of embarrassment to the first half. Villanova's roster of uber-athletic players swarmed Iowa with an aggressive defense that Iowa looked completely unprepared for. The Wildcats looked especially aggressive when Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok got the ball. The Wildcats got up in the faces of both of Iowa's star players, and dared them to take their men off the dribble. Of course, both guys are better shooters than they are at blowing by their men one-on-one, and this strategy paid huge dividends.
Not only did Nova take away Iowa's star players, but they harassed just about every Iowa player who touched the ball and they constantly had their hands in the passing lanes. This ultra-aggressive defense led to eight turnovers for Iowa and six steals for Villanova in the first half. That was good enough to outscore Iowa 12-0 in points off turnovers in the first half.
The second half went a bit better in this area for Iowa, as they only lost the ball five times to Villanova's nine, and outscored them on points off turnovers 8-2. Of course, it was too little, too late.
The second half made it so the game ended in a tie in the turnover category, but it wasn't nearly enough to make up for horrific first half.
Like turnovers, offensive rebounding was an area Iowa lost the first half, only to come out and win the second half. The problem was what Iowa did with those offensive rebounds, which was, unfortunately, nothing.
In the first twenty minutes of play, both teams came away with four offensive rebounds, but Villanova did so on seven fewer chances. They also scored five second chance points to zero for Iowa. (I can't remember a half of basketball where Iowa had zero points off turnovers and zero second chance points.) In the second half, Iowa won the offensive rebounding battle, but managed just four second chance points off their six offensive rebounds. For the game, the Hawkeyes scored 0.40 points per offensive rebound. That performance was only bested (worsted?) by the 0.39 they scored at home against Indiana and the zero they managed vs. Minnesota.
So, yes, they technically won this category. But, in the end, I'm not sure anybody walks away a winner here.
Free Throw Rate
The keys to playing a hyper-aggressive defense are to avoid being out of position by gambling for steals and losing, and also not bailing the offense out by fouling. Villanova did excellent in both of those areas against Iowa. While the Hawkeyes had finished the Big Ten season #1 in terms of getting to the free throw line, Villanova shut that down on Sunday, as Iowa managed just 13 free throw attempts all game long. Making things worse, Iowa also capitalized on only seven of those free ones all day.
Villanova, meanwhile, visited the line 17 times, making 13 of them.
Overall: Iowa Won 1 of 4 Factors
Nicholas Baer is just about the only player worth spotlighting in this game. When Nova's defense got up in the face of Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok, and forced them to take their man off the dribble or give up the ball, Baer was about the only player who was able to answer the call on offense. In the first half, Baer scored all 8 of Iowa's points in the paint and was the only guy on the roster who was actually able to make a layup.
Everyone's favorite walk-on would finish the game with 15 points on 7-13 shooting from the field. His only downside this game, was that his three-point shot wasn't falling the way we would have liked it to. Even with his 1-4 shooting from outside, though, he did give Iowa four offensive rebounds and two steals on the day. Oh, and he also scored all four of Iowa's second chance points in this one. So while this game, as a whole, was a dark storm cloud over a sea of suck, Nicholas Baer was the lone ray of sunlight.
Now, the rest of the team.
Jarrod Uthoff's diamond is high on the chart due to a 58% eFG%. But, while his shooting was efficient on the day, the issue was that he could only get up 12 shots. Perhaps the biggest compliment anyone can pay to Villanova's defense was not the fact that Uthoff took and missed a lot of shots, but the fact that he only took 12 all game, and just four in the first half. The Wildcats forcefully took Uthoff (and Jok) out of this game. Remember all those times this season when the other team sagged off Uthoff when he got the ball deep on the perimeter? Yeah, Villanova didn't do that. They weren't about to get burned from NBA range. They knew they had the means to play in the faces of both Uthoff and Jok and that Iowa would not have the offensive talent to get their points elsewhere. This is where having two guards who aren't great shooters on the floor hurts. This is where having a center who does all the little things well, but isn't great on offense hurts. I'm not knocking Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons, or Adam Woodbury. Rather, I'm just pointing out that this team has deficiencies, and they ran into a hell of a defensive team that could easily exploit them on Sunday.
Outside of Uthoff, Peter Jok had largely the same type of day. He finished with just 12 field goal attempts, and often looked helpless when he got the ball and had no space to operate. I'm curious to see what's next for Peter Jok's development. At this point in his career, he's a damn fine shooter. But this game -- and even the Temple game -- highlighted that he still has some work to do when it comes to being a more complete scorer. That includes not just getting by his man, but learning how to go up strong and finish under control at the rim.
Finally, for Iowa's remaining seniors, this day was also very disappointing. Anthony Clemmons went on to have a pretty good second half, but his day was marred by early foul trouble that caused him to miss 17 minutes of action in the first half. Mike Gesell handed out six assists, but scored just five points on 3-8 shooting and turned the ball over four times. And Adam Woodbury scored just one point in his final game, while also managing just three rebounds in 28 minutes on the court.
This was a terrible way to end the season, and the second year in a row that we've had to send a great senior class out on a rough note. However, this game doesn't define this season, and it sure as hell doesn't define this senior class and the numerous accomplishments they have had over the course of their careers. This loss sucks, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't over it already. Losing is losing, but for some reason losing big is easier for me to swallow than losing a heart-breaker in close fashion. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I can't look back on this game and think "What if things had gone slightly different?" Villanova was the better team on the day, and it showed. I can deal with that. So, instead of sulking in the wake of a demoralizing loss, I'm ready to move on.
So, thank you seniors. Thanks for the past four years of your life that you dedicated to this basketball program. Thank you Jarrod Uthoff for transferring back home and making the last few seasons possible. Thank you Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury for choosing Iowa as four star recruits when nobody else wanted to. Thank you Anthony Clemmons for not transferring after your sophomore year, but instead sticking with it and becoming a hell of a player. Thank you all for everything. Without you guys, this program would still be a dumpster fire of epic proportions. And to lose sight of that, is to lose sight of how far we have come.