For a half in Iowa's game against Virginia Tech, things were pretty good. For a half. Iowa shot 51.7% from the floor (15/29) and 50% from 3-point range (4/8) and the game was tied at 38-all at the break. Iowa was dominating the glass (21-11), which led to an 11-5 edge in second chance points. They were using their size effectively to score in the paint, where they had a 20-12 advantage. Tyler Cook was murdering rims. The only reasons the game was even tied at the half were turnovers (Virginia Tech turned eight Iowa giveaways into eight points; Iowa scored no points on four Hokie turnovers) and free throws (Tech was 11/15 at the line in the first half, while Iowa was 4/4).
Unfortunately, it turns out basketball is a game of two halves and the second half went about as disastrously as possible for Iowa. The problems started on the offensive end for Iowa. Remember that good shooting in the first half? Yeah, it didn't carry over to the second half. Tyler Cook made a jumper with 19:11 to go in the second half; Iowa didn't score another point until Cook made a free throw with 12:52 to go and they didn't make another basket until Cook got a dunk with 11:06 to go. At one point Iowa was 1/16 from the floor in the second half -- ONE OF SIXTEEN. They couldn't make dunks, they couldn't make layups, they couldn't make jumpers, they couldn't make threes. They couldn't make contested shots or wide open looks. They couldn't make anything.
Sadly, the same was not true of the Hokies. They started the half poorly too -- missing four of their first five shots -- but unlike Iowa they eventually got on track. They used a 20-1 run to completely take control of the game and turn it into a blowout. Tech's run was spurred by the offense finally starting to make shots, but it was facilitated by bad defense on Iowa's part. As has happened before with this Iowa team, bad offense begets bad defense, which begets even more frantic offense, which leads to turnovers and transition buckets for the opposition and... it's just a mess. A snowballing, disastrous mess.
Virginia Tech beat Iowa every which way imaginable in the second half. They outscored them overall 41-17. They outscored them 10-0 on fast break points. They beat them 8-2 on second chance points. They even clobbered them in the paint, 24-10. And it could have been even worse too: Virginia Tech shot just 2/11 from 3-point range in the second half, missing several open looks. Iowa made just 1/10 three-pointers themselves, part of a wretched 7/37 shooting performance from the floor in the second half. 17 points on 19% shooting has to be one of the all-time worst performances for a half in the Fran Era.
Individually, Tyler Cook was a bright spot. He led Iowa with 16 points on 6/10 shooting (he even went 4/6 at the free throw line) and added nine rebounds, two blocks, and an assist. Cordell Pemsl had one of the odder stat lines in recent memory: in 21 minutes off the bench, he had six points on miserable 2/8 shooting, as well as a game-high 14 rebounds (seven offensive), a team-high six assists and a block. Jordan Bohannon had a good first half: he led Iowa with 12 points on 4/6 shooting, 4/4 from deep. He went 0/6 in the second half, 0/4 from 3-point range. Iowa's other three starters had nightmarishly poor games: Luka Garza got into early foul trouble and finished with four points on 2/6 shooting to go with four rebounds and a block. Ahmad Wagner started, but played just 12 minutes (likely because he took a hard fall on the floor); he had two points on 1/3 shooting and two rebounds. Isaiah Moss had two points on 1/6 shooting to go with two rebounds, an assist, two fouls, and four turnovers in 22 minutes. Jack Nunge gave Iowa a spark in the first half (four points on 2/2 shooting and three rebounds), but he finished with four points and six rebounds. And Nicholas Baer did finally make his season debut, playing 22 minutes and scoring five points on 2/9 shooting (1/5 from deep), while adding four rebounds, a steal, and two turnovers. He didn't stuff the stat sheet and he certainly looked rusty, but it was good to see him; for Iowa's sake, let's hope he can get up to speed quickly.
Iowa's meltdown in the second half was painful to watch, but it wasn't a complete surprise if you'd seen Iowa play over the past few games. Iowa struggled against Grambling a few weeks ago, their problems worsened in the Caymans, and now they completely fell to pieces in the second half of this game. This team is a mess right now and they need to figure things out in a hurry. Unlike a normal year where Big Ten play wouldn't start until around New Year's, league play gets underway this weekend; Iowa hosts Penn State on Saturday and heads to Indiana on Monday. Neither of those teams are world-beaters, but they're plenty good enough to beat this reeling Iowa team. The good news is that Iowa probably can't shoot as badly as they did in the second half of this game; the bad news is that they're going to have to shoot a lot better to cover up their other flaws.
NEXT: Iowa returns to Iowa City to host Penn State on Saturday (4 PM CT, BTN).