Nebraska 76, Iowa 70: Burn This Tape

By RossWB on January 7, 2020 at 10:48 pm
© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa went into Tuesday's night game against Nebraska down another starter -- the latest absentee was C.J. Fredrick, out indefinitely with a foot injury -- but the end result was the same thing that's become crushingly reliable on Iowa's visits to Lincoln: a loss. This is, simply, a bad loss. This is a bad Nebraska team; they entered this game at 6-8 overall and ranked 153rd in the KenPom rankings.

Nebraska used an approach that many other Big Ten teams are sure to copy against Iowa this season: packing the paint, double- (and triple- and even quadruple-) teaming Luka Garza frequently, and daring Iowa to shoot (and make) long jumpers. That strategy worked like a charm for the Huskers in this game; Iowa was a stab-your-eyes-out 4/33 (12.1%) from 3-point range in this game. Several of those 3-point attempts were quite open. And several of them were missed quite badly. Some that was bad luck -- Joe Wieskamp was an absurdly bad 1/10 from 3-point range, which won't happen very often -- but some of it was simply because Iowa is extremely bereft of shooters right now with Jordan Bohannon and CJ Fredrick laid up. Joe Toussaint was 0/5 from deep, Bakari Evelyn was 0/3 from outside, Luka Garza went 0/4, and Ryan Kriener shot 0/3 from long range. Those are not really guys we want to have shooting 15 3-pointers in a game in most situations. 

Iowa did a better job in the second half of attacking the rim and getting better looks on offense, at least in the early going. They were able to erase Nebraska's 8-point halftime lead and eventually took a few slim leads of their own. Unfortunately, after Iowa tied the game at 59-all with 5:20 to play, Nebraska went on a quick 8-2 flurry (powered by two Thorir Thorbjarnarson three-pointers) that gave them a lead they would maintain the rest of the game. Iowa never got the deficit lower than four points after that. 

The sobering thing for Iowa is that Nebraska didn't even play that far above their usual level to win this game. They shot a bit better than normal overall (49%) and got hot from 3-point range in the first half (7/16 made threes before halftime, 3/10 after the break), but they lived down to their poor free throw shooting reputation (14/26, 54%) and turned the ball over 11 times (including 8 giveaways in the second half). That said, three-pointers and free throws ended up being the key difference in the game. Iowa made just four threes; Nebraska made 10. Iowa went just 2/5 at the free throw line (and had attempted just one free throw through the first 30+ minutes of the game); Nebraska made 14 free throws. So the Huskers were +18 from deep and +12 at the line; it's awfully hard to win a game when both of those numbers are stacked against you so badly. (re: the foul numbers -- it's true that Iowa's free throw numbers were down somewhat because so many of their possessions simply involved them passing the ball around the 3-point line and hoisting up a long jump shot, but that doesn't entirely explain the lack of foul calls against Nebraska for most of the game)

Joe Wieskamp led Iowa with 21 points, though he needed a lot of shots to get there -- he finished 10/23 from the floor (1/10 from deep). Luka Garza added another double-double with 16 points (on 7/15 shooting) and 18 rebounds. Joe Toussaint was the only other Iowa player in double figures, with 14 points on 7/17 shooting. He also had six rebounds and four assists, though he also had four turnovers (including a few costly ones late in the game). Iowa's bench was effectively non-existent; all of Iowa's starters played 34+ minutes except Ryan Kriener (who played 28 minutes), and Cordell Pemsl, Bakari Evelyn, and Riley Till struggled to make an impact when they were on the court. 

 The good news for Iowa is that two of their next three games are at home; the bad news is that those two home games are against #12 Maryland and #19 Michigan. Hopefully some home cooking (and home rims) can help cure what ails the Hawkeyes because right now they need all the help they can get. 

NEXT: Iowa hosts #12 Maryland on Friday night (6 PM CT, FS1). 

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