With seven seconds left in the game, the No. 21 Iowa Hawkeyes found themselves down by a point against the No. 24 Maryland Terrapins with a chance to win the game as time expired for the third game in a row. The ball was inbounded, and Jordan Bohannon heaved a strange off-balance three pointer that looked more like an attempt to draw a foul than win the game.
It bounced off the rim and into the waiting hands of Isaiah Moss, but his putback wasn’t enough. The final buzzer sounded, and the Hawkeyes fell to the Terrapins, 66-65. This was the only matchup between the teams for the season, and it has locked Maryland into the 4th spot in the Big Ten.
It was another gritty, ugly game for the Hawkeyes for most of the 40 minutes. It had everything the last two buzzer beater wins had, with one major difference. There was a low scoring first half, a double-digit second half deficit caused by turnovers, bad shot selection and play execution (and some good looks that just happened to roll off the rim), and a ferocious comeback in the final two minutes thanks to clutch shooting and good free throw shooting.
The difference? This time, it actually ended in a loss.
Only two Hawkeyes, Jordan Bohannon and Isaiah Moss, scored in double digits with 14 and 12, respectively. Tyler Cook, while performing for the highlight reel, only scored 6 points on 3-4 shooting and grabbed five rebounds. Nicholas Baer provided nine critical points off the bench, including multiple shots from downtown that were crucial in Iowa’s second half runs.
But Anthony Cowans, Bruno Fernando (great name!) and Eric Ayala scored 17 and 11 points and responded to Fran McCaffery’s man defense by playing physical beneath the basket, grabbing offensive boards and hitting shots from deep when they needed them most.
Let’s break it down.
The game got off to a slow start, with the Hawkeyes somehwat flustered by the Terrapin defense from the get-go. Neither team could get into a rhythm offensively, with both teams missing easy shots. Maryland had a 3-2 lead with 16:00 left in the first half, with Iowa starting off 1-8 from the field, and both teams a combined 1-11.
Cook brought some energy back into Carver with a cutback off a Luka Garza miss:
It was one of the few sparks of offensive life in the first half for, well, either team. The teams combined to go 0-11 from beyond the arc in their first attempts, and neither team could even convert easy layups or putbacks. It was 12-7 with 9:15 left in the first half. Maishe Dailey even managed to get in the scoring column for the first time in two games; he ended the night with 5 points and had some strong defensive possessions in the second half.
Maryland took the lead from immediately out of a timeout deep, and a back-and-forth battle from beyond the three point line began. Suddenly Iowa was down 21-20 with 5 minutes left in the half. The Hawkeyes ended the half with a three minute minute scoring drought, and Iowa ended the first half facing a 27-23 deficit.
Iowa’s scoring drought continued early in the second half, with Maryland opening up a 31-23 lead before Moss got the crowd fired up with a 3-pointer. But it was just a tease, as the Hawkeyes continued missing good shots and turning the ball over in the ensuing possessions. Quickly, Maryland had a 35-27 lead that grew to a 42-30 lead with 13 minutes left in the game.
But the Hawkeyes kept fighting. Dailey and Bohannon hit big shots to cut the deficit down, but every time Iowa made it close, the Terrapins would score a basket of their own to silence the crowd.
The Hawkeyes did what they could, with Bohannon and Wieskamp drawing fouls that allowed them to chip away at the deficit. Baer hit another three that capitalized an 8-0 run to keep the Hawkeyes alive.
But on a key defensive possession with less than thirty seconds left, Cowan drove the lane for the Terps out of the timeout. He missed, but Fernando jumped over Wieskamp and three other Iowa defenders for the tip-in basket that ended up being the game winner. Magic over.
These last three games have been extremely frustrating to me. Yes, it’s good that the Hawkeyes come out of them with a 2-1 record, but it could just as easily be 0-3 in three very winnable games.
Yes, this team is winning games they wouldn’t have last year, but the overall performances are concerning to me. Lethargic offensive performances, bad turnovers, and stars like Garza, Cook and Wieskamp having off games is really preventing this team from playing its best basketball heading into March.
The sky isn’t falling on this team yet, but let’s not let two incredible buzzer beaters take away from the fact that this team has some work to do if it’s going to make a run in the Big Ten or NCAA Tournaments.