The Iowa Hawkeyes NIT run came to an end on Thursday night, as they fell 74-54. It was going to end one way or another, as it was the championship game but the Baylor Bears used a 14-4 spurt early in the second half after Iowa had cut their lead to 28-27 and the Hawkeyes could not come back.
Iowa picked a bad night to have it’s worst shooting night of the year and while Baylor blocked a great number of shots, the Hawkeyes wounds were mostly self inflicted.
Iowa’s biggest problems in the second half was the number of shots they missed inside four feet and it wasn’t just one player. There was one sequence where Adam Woodbury, Melsahn Basabe and Aaron White missed consecutive shots on the same possession. That helped pad the offensive rebounding stat category but did nothing for the scoreboard.
Iowa had 15 offensive rebounds with 6:02 to play and had scored just five second chance points at that time. Rebounding your own close in misses and then missing the next one, and the next one, and the next one will tend to do that for you.
There were times where Iowa tried to get out and run with the more athletic Baylor team, only to get the ball poked away or stolen by a trailer. Baylor is more athletic than Iowa but the Hawkeyes missed at least a dozen shots inside four feet…in just the second half.
How bad were the misses and how much impact did they have on the game? Consider the following stats which you have probably never seen and may never see again:
Iowa had 69 field goal attempts to 48 for Baylor…and lost by 20 points
Iowa had 39 total rebounds, 20 of them offensive rebounds…and lost by 20 points.
Iowa was just 18-69 from the floor, less than 27 percent. The game at Purdue felt like it was the worst offensive game of the year and Iowa shot 31.1% in that game. I looked up the Wichita State game and Iowa shot just 26.1% from the floor in that contest, the same 26.1% they shot against Baylor. Bottom line, Thursday night’s offensive showing was one of the worst of the season.
Baylor was the better team on Thursday and I won’t deny it. We knew coming in that Baylor would be the more athletic team and it showed. Iowa couldn’t run with them and on the rare occasion when an Iowa player was able to get past the first line of defense and into the lane, there was a Bear waiting to block a shot.
We’ll keep unpacking this season and looking ahead to next year over the coming weeks and months, as Iowa fans seem ready for basketball season to start again right now. Part of that is the fact Iowa loses just one player from this team, part of that is because the football team is coming off of a 4-8 season and the prospects for 2013 are not exactly encouraging.
But for now, it was a disappointing way to end a successful season. Iowa finishes 25-13, the 25 wins tying the 2005-2006 team’s total for the second most wins in a season in school history. The record is 30 wins in 1986-1987. Iowa went 10-10 against Big Ten competition this year, the best conference in America. Iowa play 38 games, more games than any other Iowa team has every played.
Iowa had won four-straight NIT games by double-digits and finished the year winning 11 of their final 15 games. They were without a healthy Mike Gesell for the final seven games and he missed four more games.
It was a great year by any objective standard, especially when you remember how low this program had sunk when Fran McCaffery arrived three years ago.
Iowa fans bid farewell to senior Eric May; he had a great deal of heart and played the best ball of his career down the stretch and heard his name chanted in Madison Square Garden as he walked off the court for the final time in an Iowa jersey.
Iowa fans also begin to think about next year…about Jarrod Uthoff, Peter Jok and Kyle Meyer joining the fold…about an Iowa team who finished 6th in the best Big Ten since the 1980’s and a team who may be better next year.
Losing 74-54 to Baylor in the NIT final was not the way anyone wanted it to end. But it was a great year and the loss doesn’t spoil the gains that were made.