Overall, the root cause for Iowa's defeat to Minnesota on Sunday afternoon is pretty clear: they gave up 92 points to Minnesota (the most they've scored in Big Ten play and second-most they've scored all season) and allowed them to make 57% of their shots (including 66% of their 2-point attempts). Minnesota scored 1.26 points per possession, which is outrageously good. Iowa conceded 55 points in an electrifying first half, just a few days after they allowed 51 points to Michigan State in the second half of their loss to the Spartans. Over the course of 40 minutes across two games, Iowa gave up a whopping 106 points. It will probably come as no surprise that Iowa has dropped to 126th in defensive efficiency after these recent performances.
Iowa actually out-rebounded Minnesota overall (34 to 26) and on the offensive glass (10 to 6) and they had an edge in second chance points (16 to 9). Iowa and Minnesota were even in points in the paint (Minnesota had 40, Iowa had 38) and Iowa got big games out of both of their main post players: Tyler Cook had 18 points, nine rebounds, and four assists on 8/14 shooting (he was just 2/7 at the free throw line, though, which we'll get back to in a bit) and Luka Garza had a game-high 25 points, three rebounds, and an assist on 9/13 shooting.
Unfortunately, Iowa got badly outplayed in the back court. Amir Coffey had 23 points (including some roof-rattling alley-oop dunks), five assists, and three rebounds on 8/14 shooting (2/4 from 3-point range) and Gabe Kalscheur had 19 points, three assists, and a rebound on 7/16 shooting. Iowa did get another good game from Isaiah Moss (who continued not only his recent spell of strong play but also his peculiar trend of producing some of his career-best performances against Minnesota), who went for 23 points on 6/10 shooting (making his first five three-point attempts), six rebounds, and three assists. But Jordan Bohannon and Joe Wieskamp combined for five points on 1/5 shooting (just one three point attempt combined), six assists, and three rebounds. Both found themselves on the bench for long stretches of this game (particularly in the second half) as they struggled to slow down Minnesota's guards.
Of course, despite all that... Iowa only lost by five. They were in the game throughout the high-scoring, back-and-forth first half and after struggling for much of the second half, they still managed to mount a (ultimately futile) comeback in the game's final minutes. In hindsight, a few moments stand out as being especially damaging for Iowa in this game.
* Iowa and Minnesota were tied at 39-all with 5:37 to go in the first half; that was the last point during the game when Iowa didn't trail. Minnesota went on a 16-7 run to end the half and one of the key moments during that run was a flagrant one foul on Connor McCaffery. Iowa trailed 46-41 before that foul; Minnesota ended up scoring two free throws and got another bucket after an offensive rebound, turning it into a 4-point possession and taking a 50-41 lead. The other killer was allowing a three-pointer as time expired in the first half; instead of going into the break down 52-46, they went into halftime down nine points, 55-46.
* After scoring 46 points on 60% shooting in the first half, Iowa's offense went cold to start the second half. They scored just 11 points in the first eight minutes of the half and eventually found themselves down by 14, 70-56. Minnesota's shooting also cooled off after their torrid display in the first half, but Iowa wasn't able to take advantage.
* Free throw shooting was ultimately one of the biggest differences in the game -- Minnesota went 21/31 at the line, while Iowa went just 13/21. Not getting to the line as much as they typically do hurt Iowa, but not converting when they had opportunities hurt Iowa even more. After going 4/6 in the first half at the line, Iowa went 9/15 at the line in the second half. Tyler Cook missed three, including the first half of a one-and-one with Iowa down four with 2:15 to go.
* After Iowa's sluggish start to the second half (on offense and defense), McCaffery opted for a hockey line change-style substitution with all five starters going out and Connor McCaffery, Maishe Dailey, Riley Till, Nicholas Baer, and Ryan Kriener replacing them. The surprising part wasn't making that move -- I can see the logic in trying to light a spark under the starters -- but in leaving them out for so long; the bench mob played a good 4-5 minutes straight in the second half while the starters idled on the bench. The good news was that Iowa's deficit didn't really grow during that stretch; they were down 65-54 when Fran made that switch and they were down 70-57 when Fran started to bring some of the starters back into the game. The bad news was that they only scored three points (unsurprising given how offensively challenged the quintet on the floor was) and didn't shrink the deficit, either, and Iowa was left with five fewer minutes to try and claw their way back into the game.
* Finally, Iowa was doomed by some costly misses and turnovers at the end of the game after they had managed to cut into Minnesota's lead in a significant way. Iowa outscored Minnesota 11-1 from the 5:33 mark to the 2:43 mark, thanks to two Gopher turnovers and six missed free throws by Minnesota. After cutting the lead to 84-80, Tyler Cook went to the free throw line for a one-and-one with a chance to cut Minnesota's lead to two with 2:15 to play; instead, he missed the first free throw and Minnesota made a jumper to give themselves a six-point lead. After Joe Wieskamp made two free throws to again cut Iowa's deficit to four points, Iowa forced a stop and got a rebound with Cook leading a fast break. Alas, it ended in a turnover and Iowa was again prevented from turning it into a one-score game. That was one of five turnovers Cook had in the game, which was costly. I don't want to single out Cook for the loss -- he had 18 and 9 and was easily one of Iowa's three best players in the game, but he did have some very costly miscues in this game.
But the killer for Iowa in this game was the same thing that's plagued them in so many losses in recent years: bad defense. Until they get that solved, we're going to see more results like this.
NEXT: Iowa welcomes #5 Michigan to Iowa City on Friday night (6 PM CT, FS1).