Iowa basketball entered Saturday night's game in Lincoln with the worst defensive efficiency rating in the entirety of big-conference basketball (B1G, B12, ACC, SEC, Pac-12 and Big East). Iowa gives up 1.05 points per possession; just one other Big Ten team is at 1.01 (and you have to round up Minnesota's number to get there). The Hawkeyes were 210th nationally in opponent's three-point percentage, 301st in opponent's turnover rate, and 328th in percentage of opponents' points coming on two- and three-point shots. There is a simple story to this season, a season in which Iowa's offense has morphed into something bordering on decent.
We saw a glimpse of what we expected to see at the beginning of the second half of Iowa's 98-84 loss to Nebraska Saturday. The Hawkeye perimeter defense, lacking so often this season, was tight, and the rebounding was aided by the simple fact that the defense hadn't been pulled away from the rim by unstopped guards and perimeter threats. But as good as that four-minute stretch was, pulling the Hawkeyes from a 14-point halftime deficit to within a bucket of the Huskers, it wasn't good enough. Turnovers and open shooters led to an 11-0 Nebraska counterpunch, and the teams essentially traded baskets the rest of the way.
There were bright spots. Tyler Cook was utterly unstoppable in the post, finishing with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Bohannon added 24 points of his own while playing essentially the entire game without a break, with seven assists for good measure. Cordell Pemsl had 10 points off the bench. The Hawkeyes shot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. Iowa's offense looked as good as it has all year.
But this isn't an offense problem. Nebraska, which had posed a relatively pedestrian 1.07 points per possession efficiency rating this year, put up 1.4 tonight. Nebraska shot 57 percent from the field and 58 from behind the arc; they came in averaging 47 and 34 percent, respectively. The Huskers' 98 points were the most they have ever scored in a Big Ten game. Iowa doesn't defend perimeter shots. Iowa doesn't fill passing lanes and generate turnovers. Iowa doesn't really do much other than stand and wait for an inbounds pass after another made basket.
This isn't complicated. It's not hard to look at the stat sheet and see what's wrong. But it's increasingly clear that, for whatever reason, Iowa is incapable of fixing the problem; at this point in the season, it's too late regardless.