When Luka Garza returned to Iowa for his senior season, the Hawkeyes were given a gift from the normally cruel college basketball gods. It’s not often the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and prohibitive National Player of the Year returns to school in lieu of turning pro.
Garza’s decision had Iowa and its fans dreaming of a conference title and Final Four run.
Well, leave it to Fran McCaffery’s patented “two-foul jail” to nip that in the bud.
A jumper by Indiana’s Armaan Franklin with 01.8 left gave the Hoosiers (10-8, 5-6 B1G) a 67-65 upset win over the Hawkeyes, who have now lost four of their last five contests. The win gives an Indiana team that, by all metrics and predictions is currently an NIT team, their second win in 17 days and a season sweep over Iowa.
The real story of the game though wasn’t Franklin’s dagger, but instead the complete ineptitude of both McCaffery and the (supposedly) high-powered Hawkeye offense.
Iowa (13-6, 7-5) was up 17-7 when Garza was whistled for his second foul of the game at the 12:30 mark of the first half. McCaffery, showing that not even the best player in the nation is immune to some of his contextually-deaf coaching strategies, promptly sat Garza for the rest of the period.
The Hawkeyes trailed 33-31 at the break.
Garza returned for the second-half, scoring 16 points on 5/11 shooting from the field, but it wasn’t enough as Iowa put together multiple 3:00+ scoring droughts over the final 10:54, letting an offensively-putrid Hoosiers team hang around all day until they finally bit them at the end.
Garza and Wieskamp led Iowa with 18 points apiece, but overall it was a rare off-night for Luka who didn’t attempt a three-pointer and finished with only two rebounds and two turnovers.
Missing C.J. Fredrick to a leg injury for the second-straight game, the Hawkeyes jumped on Indiana early, hitting their first five three-point attempts en route to 17-4 and 23-11 leads in the opening ten minutes. Wieskamp went three-of-five from downtown, leading the Hawkeyes with 15 points and five rebounds at the intermission. No other Iowa player scored more than three points over the first 20 minutes.
But in the final 20:00, the Hawkeyes made only two of their 10 three-point attempts and shot just 9/24 (.375) from the field overall. Garza, the only Iowa player to score in double-figures in the second half, didn’t attempt a three-pointer after the break and Wieskamp was held to just three points on 1/3 shooting from the field.
If you are a fan of offensive basketball (or basketball played in the 21st century), don’t read the box score.
The Hawkeyes entered the day ranked #1 in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency per KenPom, yet shot just 19/51 (.372) from the field. Garza, Wieskamp, and Jordan Bohannon were the only Hawkeyes to score 10+ points and no other Iowa player scored more than three points. In fact, the normally stout Hawkeye bench only added five points in the effort—most notably Joe Toussaint’s scoreless outing in only four minutes of play.
In all, Iowa’s reserves went an astonishing 0-12 from the field.
Both teams combined to shoot 42/115 (.365) from the field, including a preposterous 41 missed shot effort (23/64) by Indiana. The Hoosiers somehow won this game despite missing 17 three-pointers (6/23) and nine free-throws (15/24).
Iowa made its free-throws (19/22), but wasn’t much better from beyond the arc (8/21) and got out-rebounded by Indiana 44-36, including allowing the Hoosiers to grab 15 offensive boards. Indiana posted 15 assists to just five from Iowa and scored 17 points off of 11 Hawkeye turnovers, while Iowa turned the Hoosiers nine giveaways into only five points.
So where exactly does Iowa go from here? With five conference losses and currently in sixth-place, it’s pretty clear you can add another year onto Iowa’s Big Ten championship drought. And given the Hawkeyes’ recent play, is there any confidence this team can find a way pull it together and return to an elite-level before the calendar turns to March?
There’s still too much of a season to make any grandiose proclamations, but in simply watching this team they look less like a Final Four team and more like a “four-seed.” And even holding a top-4 seed in the NCAA Tournament seems fleeting for Iowa at the moment.
So it was a not-so-Super Sunday for the Hawkeyes who seem to be fading once again (in case you haven’t noticed, this seems to be an ongoing trend) under their 11th-year head coach. Ranked in the top-five just three weeks ago, expect Iowa to be slotted somewhere between 15-20 this coming week and, with games against Rutgers, Michigan State, and Wisconsin approaching, the Hawkeyes might not be in the top-20 for much longer. Because after two punchless losses at the hands of a bad-to-mediocre Hoosiers team, anything is possible.
Oh, and that third foul McCaffery was so afraid of? Garza never got it.