#17 Iowa State 73, Iowa 53: Meltdown

By RossWB on December 10, 2021 at 12:09 am
ugh
© Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
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For the third time in the last seven days, Iowa basketball left a game with another L in the loss column. And while there were positives to take away from Iowa's previous defeats to Purdue and Illinois, there are no positives to take away from this loss. None. This was a thoroughly rancid performance by Iowa on every level, and a humbling loss that further exposed clear weaknesses in this team. Iowa got outplayed in every facet of the game by Iowa State on Thursday night, ending their three-year winning streak in the Cy-Hawk series with a whimper. 

Bad shooting? Check. 
Bad defense? Check. 
Bad hustle? Check.
Bad rebounding? BIG CHECK. 

Iowa was bad at a little bit of everything in this game and they got the outcome they deserved as a result. Let's start with the shooting, because, well, we have to start somewhere. Iowa made four of their first nine shots and led 12-11 almost eight minutes into the game. It was all downhill from there. They made just 4/19 shots the rest of the half, endured a few lengthy scoring droughts, got outscored 27-14 by ISU, and trailed 38-26 at halftime. Any hopes of a second half turnaround were dashed by more missed shots after halftime and a 7-0 ISU run that pushed the lead out to 19 and effectively ended the game, even with 17 minutes remaining. All that was left was the final margin of defeat, which wound up being 20 -- Iowa's worst-ever loss in the Cy-Hawk series. 

Iowa shot just 27% for the game (17/63) and 19% from deep (5/27). I don't have the stomach to look through all of the box scores of the Fran Era at Iowa, but there's a pretty good chance that those are the absolute worst shooting percentages Iowa has had during the 12 years that Fran has been at Iowa. The shooting tonight was simply abysmal. Iowa State's defense certainly deserves credit -- their pressure on the ball and physicality bothered Iowa's shooters and they were able to contest several Iowa attempts. But Iowa also simply missed open shots -- like, a lot of open shots -- in this game, too. Open threes -- CLANG. Layups at the rim -- WHIFF. Putbacks -- UH UH. Bunnies near the basket -- NOPE. This just a team-wide horror show when it came to shooting the ball. 

Jordan Bohannon was the best of the bunch, scoring 17 points in his final career game against Iowa State on 4/12 shooting (3/8 3FG). He was hot early and cooled off later in the game, but his early shot-making didn't matter because none of his teammates could do anything to aid him. No one embodied Iowa's dreadful shooting night more than Keegan Murray; the nation's leading scorer had zero points on the first half, missed his first 10 shots, and finished with just nine points in a ghastly 4/17 display. Murray looked tentative at times, but there were also plenty of open looks that he simply... missed. Tony Perkins also had nine points, on 3/10 shooting (0/3 3FG), while Patrick McCaffery (2/9 FG, 1/5 3FG) and Filip Rebraca (2/3 FG) each had seven points. 

Aside from miserable shooting, Iowa's other enormous problem was on the glass, where Iowa State absolutely crushed them, 50-32. Rebounding has gone from a concern to a full-fledged "holy shit, this is a disaster" critical issue for this team. It was one thing to get out-rebounded by Purdue and Illinois -- those are at least elite rebounding teams -- but getting dominated on the glass by Iowa State, who's merely an above-average rebounding team, is far more alarming. Especially since it came directly after a dire rebounding performance against Illinois; if that game didn't light a fire under them to work harder on rebounding, what will?

Iowa State finished with a 50-32 rebounding edge, which is bad, but actually undersells how one-sided the rebounding was when the game was still somewhat competitive. In the first half, ISU out-rebounded Iowa 28-10 (!), including a 13-4 (!!) edge on the offensive glass, which they turned into a 12-2 (!!!) advantage in second chance points. Iowa played them to a draw on the glass in the second half (22-22 overall, 11-8 edge in offensive rebounds, 8-7 in second chance points), but the damage was long since done by that point. Iowa's rebounding is a huge, flashing red light of a problem for this team, but there aren't any clear solutions. It's not as if Fran can get more size for this team in the next two weeks -- although it might be worth giving Josh Ogundele more minutes to see if he can grab a few rebounds. It's not as if the rebounding situation could get much worse with him in the game.

But rebounding is about more than size; it's also about hustle, energy, desire, and knowing where to be. Right now, Iowa is failing at all of those things in emphatic fashion; they aren't hustling to loose balls, they often lose rebounds in scramble situations or in traffic, and they do a terrible job of anticipating misses and being in good locations to grab rebounds. The only good thing is that most of those issues are -- theoretically, at least -- things that can be worked on in practice. Let's hope Iowa uses their nine-day break between games to do just that or this atrocious rebounding is going to continue being an anchor around Iowa's neck all season long. 

As far as Iowa's defense goes... it was also pretty bad for large stretches of this game, but it wasn't quite as cover-your-eyes terrible as the offense or the rebounding were. And, really, all three worked in tandem to make this a truly atrocious Iowa performance. Bad offense and missed shots made it easy for Iowa State to get out in transition, which put added pressure on Iowa's defense. Bad rebounding made it easy for Iowa State to get multiple second shot opportunities, which further stressed Iowa's defense.

But one of the most frustrating things about this loss was that, aside from Izaiah Brockington, who once again turned into a human flamethrower against Iowa, the rest of the Iowa State team really didn't play all that well. Brockington was unstoppable, particularly in the first two-thirds of the game when he made his first nine (!) shots. He finished with 29 points on 11/14 shooting (3/5 3FG), as well as 10 rebounds. He was easily the best player on the court for either team in this game and he made shot after shot in the game, often when ISU needed a spark. (He was even better in this game than he was in the Palestra game for Penn State almost two years ago, when he finished with 23 points on 9/15 shooting.) But non-Brockington Cylones went just 16/48 (33%) from the field and only 5/20 (25%) from long range. This was not Iowa State firing on all cylinders -- but they didn't need to be with Iowa playing this badly. 

Even if the shooting wasn't there for any Cyclone except Brockington, they fully deserved this win over Iowa because they out-hustled and out-worked Iowa for 40 minutes. They played with tremendous energy and were quicker to every loose ball. Iowa was a step slow or a step too passive all night long and they paid the price for it. Here's hoping they find some extra energy fast, or it could be a very long year on the court. This was a Murphy's Law game in a lot of respects, in which just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong, including luck -- many of those missed shots and weird bounces that always seemed to go to an Iowa State player can be chalked up to bad luck. But you certainly can't explain away all of the problems that way and luck usually follows the team that puts in the effort and the work; that was certainly Iowa State in this game. 

The good vibes of that 7-0 start and early season cupcake binge are long gone; credible opponents have exposed several weaknesses in this Iowa team. Iowa probably won't shoot this badly again the rest of the season, though there are still concerns with this offense and its ability to find the right balance and avoid prolonged scoring droughts. But rebounding has developed into a major flaw for this team, one that Fran & Co. need to try and address immediately. And, above all else, they need to play with more energy and hustle more on the court; if they're going to let opponents out-work them, there are going to be a lot of long nights for this team over the next few months. 

NEXT: Iowa returns to action against Utah State at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, SD on Saturday, December 18 (8 PM CT, BTN). 

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