A schedule with four home games in 17 days is just what the Hawkeyes needed to go on a five game winning streak that featured two impressive wins over Top 25 teams. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and we knew that Life on the Road in the Big Ten was bound to strike back. As a totally subjective Iowa fan I acknowledge that home cooking is alive and well in our conference. At Maryland, things were no different as the Hawkeyes fell 82-72 at Maryland.
Luka Garza, the offensive wizard of this Iowa team, picked up his first foul at 18:15. His second came at 15:15 and at that point, he took a seat on the bench. Enter Ryan Kriener, who picked up his first foul at 11:30 and his second less than a minute later when he was called for a technical foul after saying a bit too much after making a layup. This was the story of the game: Iowa’s bigs getting into foul trouble and being unable to find any sort of groove.
At home, against Rutgers, Iowa was only called for 16 fouls. At home, against Wisconsin, it was 15 fouls. On the road, against Maryland it was 22. And this didn’t lead to a free throw discrepancy. It led to Fran having to use some “unusual” lineups to pass time while his bigs rode the bench. By "unusual" I mean that Riley Till saw a substantial amount of playing time against a Top 25 Big Ten team on the road.
With Garza on the bench, Iowa had to rely on their guards for offense. Joe Weiskamp stepped up in big way, recording 17 points, 6 rebounds ,and 3 steals. Fredrick was equally impressive, with 12 points and 2 rebounds. Joe Toussaint, who continues to show explosiveness to the hoop had 8 points, 4 assists and 2 steals. Those are very good stat lines from Iowa’s starting guards and that’s why Iowa was only facing a four point deficit at half.
But Iowa’s offense doesn’t run through their guards. It runs through Garza, who played only 25 minutes, his second lowest total in Big Ten play (his lowest was 24 against Northwestern and he didn’t play so few minutes there due to foul trouble). In the second half, after Ryan Kriener cut the Maryland lead to one, Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith stormed back, pushing the Terps lead to nine with 14 minutes left in the game.
Iowa had one last run in them though, thanks to Weiskamp, Garza and Pemsl making it just a 52-49 deficit. Yet, just like before, Maryland answered with Cowan and Smith and the game wasn’t really ever that close again. In the end, Cowan finished with an impressive 31 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds. Smith had 18 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks. Aaron Wiggins was also a spark off the bench for the Terps, racking up 14 points and 5 rebounds.
The lack of groove from Iowa’s big men and Maryland simply shooting better (45% from the floor to Iowa’s 36%) resulted in a Hawkeye loss. You can complain about foul calls (REFS!) but that’s life on the Road on the Big Ten. Iowa isn’t a very deep team and this foul trouble tested their questionable depth. You can complain, but Big Ten basketball requires you to either get busy livin' or get busy dyin' and Iowa did the latter.
The good news is that Iowa is back home on Sunday against Illinois, the [checks notes] #1 team in the Big Ten? Then there’s a road trip to a down Purdue team, a revenge opportunity at home against Nebraska, and back-to-back road games against middle-of-the-pack Big Ten teams in Indiana and Minnesota. In all, the Hawkeyes will be playing two out of their next five on the road. The good news is the only truly good team they’ll face is Illinois and they get them at home.
This is when things get nasty. Iowa has a reputation (earned or not) for faltering later in the year and they’ve got a lot of road games against middle-of-the-road competition coming up. Beating Illinois and slapping Nebraska around for what they did in Lincoln would be wonderful. Losing to three mid-pack Big Ten teams on the road just because of Life on the Big Ten would not be so grand. It’s now GRIND SZN for the Hawkeyes.
NEXT: Iowa hosts #19 Illinois on Sunday, February 2 at 12 PM CT on FS1.