You know it was coming, right? If you've watched Iowa basketball at all this year, you should have been waiting for it. That stretch of hopelessness where Iowa's offense runs off a ditch and forgets how to get good looks, let alone make buckets. That miserable stretch when the defense looks lost and woefully out of sync, with wide open lanes to the bucket opening up on possession after possession. That gutting stretch when simply taking care of the ball seems like too much. You knew it was coming because stretches like that have been a facet of pretty much every Iowa game this year -- certainly every game they've played against opponents with pulses -- and stretches like that are why they were 9-8 overall and 0-4 in league play heading into tonight's game with Maryland. Well, they're 9-9 overall and 0-5 in Big Ten play now, thanks to another game that featured some of the same old flaws we've seen time and again from this Hawkeye team.
Iowa rode hot scoring to a lead in the first half, but then needed their hot scoring just to keep the game close because Maryland's shooting was even hotter. The Terps led 48-44 on 57% shooting from the floor; Iowa shot 55% in the first half. The Terps maintained their hot shooting in the second half (they shot 57% in that half too), while Iowa's shooting cooled off (just 43% in the second half). But Iowa really cooled off over the final 10 minutes, which is when the game went from a close, back-and-forth contest to a Maryland rout. Iowa led 64-61 with just over 11 minutes to go in the game; you can look at the final score and tell that they only scored nine points over those final 11 minutes while the Terps scored... 30. Most of the damage was done in a 17-2 stretch the Terps rode from the 11 minute mark to the 4:38 mark; that stretch was full of the typical foibles we've become unfortunately accustomed to during this wretched Iowa season: stagnant offense that leads to bad shots and transition opportunities for opponents, horrendous transition defense and even worse half-court defense that gives opponents clear lanes to the basket again and again, and (of course) turnovers.
For the game Iowa had 17 turnovers, evenly split with eight in the first half and nine in the second; the Terps had 13 points off the first half giveaways and eight off the second half turnovers. Iowa got 15 points off nine Maryland turnovers. Second chance points were close (Iowa led 15-12, in fact), and the teams were close in bench points (16-11 Terps) and fast break points (nine apiece). But the Terps absolutely mauled Iowa in the paint in this game: they had a 24-12 advantage there in the first half and that ballooned to 56-22 in the second half. Maryland's bigs got bucket after bucket at the rim and Maryland's guards knifed in for layup after layup. If the Terps could have made a three, this game would have been even uglier: they shot just 4/17 from deep in this one, although the wonder is why they even shot that many when they were making 69.7% of their two-point attempts.
The Terps also had a notable edge at the free throw line (19/25 versus 6/10 for Iowa), which was boosted by Iowa getting dinged for 20 fouls versus just 14 for the Terps. And this is probably where we should discuss the officiating, particularly since it will be a major talking point for this game. It was bad. They allowed plenty of contact in some sequences, then called Bohannon for several of the wispiest fouls imaginable (including one where he didn't touch the opponent at all). They gave Tyler Cook a technical foul (which ended up fouling him out) on a play where he was trying to get up from underneath a Maryland player who was taunting. Fran got ejected from a game (for the first time in four years) after two lightning-quick (and almost back-to-back) technical fouls at the end of the first half. One came when Fran expressed his displeasure about uncalled fouls involving Pemsl and Bohannon on back-to-back plays; the other came from... well, I'm still not sure, exactly. Maybe for being too far on the court? (Though that didn't seem to impact Turgeon when he ran onto the court later in the game.) The officiating was certainly not why Iowa lost this game; they lost the game because the defense again was hopeless and the offense retreated into a shell for long stretches of the games. None of that changes the fact that the officiating in this game was absolutely wretched.
The bright spot for Iowa was Isaiah Moss, who had a career-high 25 points on 10/16 shooting (4/6 from deep) to go with a rebound and two assists. He had a personal 8-0 scoring run in the second half that gave Iowa a brief lead; he disappeared after that but, in fairness, so did the rest of the Iowa offense. Nicholas Baer put together a throwback performance too: seven points on 3/6 shooting, 11 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. When things were going well for Iowa in this game (which they were, for a while!), Baer was at the heart of a lot of those things. Cook started off strongly with a handful of made buckets, but early foul trouble killed his game and he ended up with just seven points, a rebound, an assist, and three turnovers before fouling out. And Bohannon had a weird game: he had one of his better shooting nights in a while with 17 points on 5/13 shooting (5/10 from deep) had five assists, but he also had six turnovers and a lot of his misses came late when Iowa desperately needed buckets to try and keep pace with the Terrapins.
The offense's brownouts in this game (one in the first half and the killer disappearing act at the end of the game) were certainly problematic, especially because misses from Iowa's offense make it harder for them to get their defense set, but the biggest concern for this Iowa team still seems to be on the defensive end, where teams get open looks and easy buckets far too often. That's especially true early in games: Big Ten opponents are averaging 44.4 points in the first half against Iowa this year. Not coincidentally, Iowa has trailed at halftime in every game this year. Constantly battling from behind is not a winning formula.
NEXT: The league's cellar dwellers battle in the Big Ten Pillow Fight of the Week, brought to you by MyPillow, as Iowa (0-5 in conference play) heads to Champaign to face Illinois (0-4 in league action) on Thursday night (7 PM, FS1). Someone's 0 must go!