Rutgers 48, Iowa 46: That Sucked

By RossWB on January 19, 2022 at 11:13 pm
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© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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It's not fair to say that the referees cost Iowa this game. Not when Iowa had not just their worst offensive performance of the season but the fifth worst offensive performance of the Fran McCaffery Era at Iowa. Not when Iowa shot 29% in the first half... and was somehow worse (26%) in the second half. Nor when Iowa got outworked badly on the boards in the second half (26-15 overall, 6-1 offensive rebounds) and could only turn 15 Rutgers turnovers into six points. 

And yet...

The referees absolutely played an inordinately large role in the outcome of this game. After one of the most physical and high-contact games of the season, a game in which Rutgers defended like Joe Pesci in GoodFellas for much of the game, the officials called a foul on Keegan Murray for, apparently, bumping Ron Harper, Jr., with two seconds to go. Harper drained both free throws and, bada bing, bada boom, there's your final margin. That would have been a dodgy foul call at any point in any game. To call it at that point of the game and after a game that had been called like that for the preceding 39 minutes and 58 seconds, well... it's horseshit. Absolute horseshit. 

This nonsense also came after the officials had previously covered themselves in glory at the end of the first half. After a steal and drive to the basket, Joe Toussaint made an acrobatic layup as time expired that appeared to give Iowa a 29-24 halftime lead. It was a close play in terms of whether or not he got the shot off before the clock hit 0.0 -- but the officials on the floor said it was a good basket. There did not seem to be a smoking gun camera angle among the replays to overturn that call --  but the officials revoked the basket anyway. Seems like those two points would have been useful at the end of the game, just saying!

So, yes, some absolutely mystifying (if we're feeling charitable) officiating at work tonight. Given the general quality of Big Ten referees, it's safer to assume general incompetence than corruption, but it's still a pretty frustrating set of affairs. Iowa may or may not have won the game had it gone to overtime (as it seemed destined to do prior to the foul call with two seconds to play). But at least if they lost that way because they airball-ed and shot clock violation-ed their way to their doom, at least it would have been fully on them. 

It was hard to say whether "airball" or "shot clock violation" was Iowa's favorite play on offense in this game; it was really a neck-and-neck battle between them all night long. I haven't seen this many airballs since the last time I watched 10-year olds play. I'm not sure I've ever seen this many shot clock violations on one team in a single game. Full credit to Rutgers: their defense was absolutely smothering in this game and they took full advantage of the way the officials were calling (or not calling) the game, pushing their physical play to the limit. The defense definitely prevented Iowa from finding any sort of rhythm and spooked them into countless bad shots. It even seemed to spook them on good shots, though -- Jordan Bohannon airballed at least two wide-open looks from deep. Rutgers' defense flummoxed Iowa's ball movement and made getting the ball into the post a virtual impossibility; that left Iowa with little choice but to hoist up ugly jump shot after ugly jump shot, many of which never came close to hitting net, rim, or backboard. 

Iowa shot 10/34 (29%) in the first half... and was legitimately even worse in the second half -- 7/27 (26%). Iowa made three shots in the first three minutes of the second half, made their next shot three minutes later (a Keegan Murray three-pointer), and then went almost ten minutes before scoring another field goal (a Patrick McCaffery layup with four minutes to play). Incredibly, Iowa actually led for a large portion of that almost ten-minute field goal drought because Rutgers, too, could not make a field goal to save their lives. The Scarlet Knights shot 10/30 (33%) in the first half and followed that up by going 8/28 (29%) in the second half. This was just a bricklayers' convention every direction you looked. 

Iowa's defense also played well -- certainly one of their best efforts of the season, which adds to the frustration at not being able to get out of Jersey with a win in this game. But they did a solid job of contesting shots and forcing Rutgers to attempt jumpers on many possessions, most of which they invariably missed. There was plenty to like about the way Iowa played defense in this game and as much as we'd like to burn all tape from this game and forget it ever existed, if there's one positive takeaway it's certainly on the defensive end; hopefully Iowa can carry a bit of that defensive form over into their upcoming games.

That said, for as much credit as the Rutgers and Iowa defenses deserve, there were also a lot of missed shots in this game. Like a lot of missed shots. A lot of bricked open looks and whiffed layups. Both teams struggled to finish at the rim to an extent that was honestly comical. On several attempts, it seemed like it would have been easier to score than to miss... but miss they did. This was a truly wretched game of basketball. 

Aside from the whole "not making a shot for almost 10 minutes" thing, another thing that hurt Iowa badly in the second half was their performance on the glass. They played Rutgers to a draw in rebounding in the first half (23-23 overall, with an 8-5 offensive rebound edge to Iowa, actually). But they got lit up in the second half (26-15 overall advantage for Rutgers, including a 6-1 edge on the offensive glass) and while Rutgers still missed a ton of shots in the second half, all those rebounds kept Iowa from getting second chance opportunities and gave themselves a few additional shots as well. That proved costly in a game that was as much of a grind as this one was. 

Other stats that were very bad for Iowa? They got a whopping zero points from their bench, which hurt. The starters couldn't get much going tonight, but neither could the bench. Iowa also got just six points off 15 Rutgers turnovers; credit Rutgers for hustling back on defense to prevent Iowa from getting easy transition buckets, but Iowa also made some absolutely baffling decisions in transition in this game and took some very poor shots (which -- surprise! -- didn't go in very often). One final bad stat? Iowa, the best free-throw shooting team in the Big Ten, was just 6/11 (55%) at the free throw line. Those misses hurt badly in a game as close as this one. 

On an individual basis, Keegan Murray led the way for Iowa with another double double -- 13 points and 13 rebounds. It was one of his weakest games of the season, though, as he shot just 5/14 from the floor (2/6 from 3-point range). He also had two blocks and a steal. Filip Rebraca had a great first half (8 points, 7 rebounds), but he couldn't maintain that effectiveness into the second half; he finished with 8 points and 10 rebounds. (He also left the game with an apparent foot injury in the final minutes; hopefully he's not dealing with any sort of serious ailment, because a) he's playing his best basketball of the season lately and b) Iowa's thin frontcourt would be in truly frightening shape if Rebraca has to miss time.)

 Patrick McCaffery was the only other Iowa player in double figures, with 11 points on 4/12 shooting (1/5 from 3-point range), as well as 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Joe Toussaint had 8 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 3 turnovers; on the rare moments when Iowa's offense found a spark, it was often because of a play that Toussaint made, but he also went long stretches of being unable to get anything going for Iowa on offense (as evidenced by the multiple lengthy scoring droughts Iowa endured in this game). Finally, Jordan Bohannon finished with six points on 2/11 shooting (2/10 from long range); it was an absolute nightmare of a game for Bohannon; he struggled to find daylight and shooting room against Rutgers' defense, but even when he did some get good looks, he frequently launched an airball or clanked a shot off the rim. 

And that's that. 1400 words is long enough to spend on this debacle, frankly. The refs sucked. Iowa's offense sucked. Watching that game sucked. Writing about that game sucked. It all sucked. 

NEXT: Iowa faces Penn State (8-7, 3-4 Big Ten) at home on Saturday, January 22 (3:30 PM CT, BTN). 

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