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Rutgers 86, Iowa 72: Good Knight

Cold shooting dooms Hawkeyes

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Nicholas Baer won’t get a storybook ending in Iowa City as the Iowa Hawkeyes shot 35 percent from the field and allowed Rutgers to hit 50 percent on their takes in a 86-72 loss to the Scarlet Knights.

This is the second consecutive game where the Hawkeyes have suffered a double-digit loss, and third falter in four games. With just two to play on the season, and NCAA seeding in tow, Iowa is playing frustrating, uninspiring basketball.

The first half was, once again, the Ron Harper Jr. show. He tied his career high in the first half with 16 points by himself. The last time he scored 16 points was, yep, against Iowa in the first meeting between these teams. He ended the game with 27 and was a thorn in Iowa’s side throughout.

It was a mostly sluggish first half from Iowa. A three-pointer from Jordan Bohannon as time expired made the score slightly easier to stomach at 39-30 going into the break, but hot shooting (Issa Thiam went 3-3 from range, Rutgers went 7-15 as a team) from the Knights and charmin-like outings in the paint kept Iowa at more than arm’s length for the first 20 minutes. The Hawkeyes also went 9-15 at the line, that wasn’t great either.

Rutgers absolutely picked apart whatever zone defense Iowa decided to trot out, as outlined by the shooting from Thiam, a guy who’s averaging 3 ½ points this season. He ended the game with 13, his first double-digit effort since the second game of the year.

The second half was lifeless from Iowa, despite the fact the Hawks played the final 13:21 with the luxury of having free throws. Shaq Carter fouled out with 12 minutes to go, but that just seemed to inspire Rutgers. The Knights shot 60 percent in the second half, while Iowa shot 34 percent. The number was in the teens for a good portion of the frame. The Hawkeyes went 10 minutes without a field goal. Baer hit a 3 with 6 minutes to go to throw a beer bottle at the locomotive that was a 21-point lead at the time.

AND THEN.. there was a comeback. Kind of. Iowa assembled an 11-2 run to cut it 72-60.

Then Rutgers forced two turnovers and scored on each ensuing breakaway to push Iowa’s shoulders back underwater. Iowa was 8-29 from three while Rutgers shot a blistering 11-23. At times it felt like high school teams could put up better shots.

Really, there’s not much more to say. This sucks. Part of me thought this team would fire themselves up with Fran McCaffery watching the game in his office, but that was not the case. And it’s too bad, because he won’t be on the sidelines in Madison next week either. Iowa’s propensity to crater late in the season has been beaten to death over and over again everywhere. And this time, friggin’ Rutgers is holding the murder weapon.

Other notes:

  • Baer was the lone bright spot, really. He ended the game with 17 points, 6 boards, and 5 fouls.
  • It’s really tough to dismiss the late March swoon narrative.
  • Despite Tyler Cook’s 16 points, he looked lost at times. There were times he looked unstoppable in the post, and that was Iowa’s best source of points, but for whatever reason, the Hawkeyes just chose not to feed him for long stretches.
  • Isaiah Moss had 0 points. He needs to stop doing that.
  • Iowa shot 10 more free throws than Rutgers, going 24-36 at the line. The Knights went 15-26 at the stripe.