Shoddy defense haunts Hawkeyes in loss to Virginia Tech

BY TOM CLOS | NOVEMBER 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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Not even a 14-0 run and a double-double could make up for the Iowa men’s basketball team’s defensive deficiencies Tuesday night.

The Hawkeyes looked overwhelmed in their first real test of the season and allowed a season-high number of points in a 95-79 loss to Virginia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va. It was the team’s second-straight loss and seventh-consecutive in the annual cross-conference event dating back to a victory over North Carolina State in 2005.

Trailing 55-38 with 16:34 remaining, the Black and Gold went on a 14-0 run in 3:30, cutting the deficit to 55-52. The Hokies regained control of the game however, outscoring Iowa 40-27 the rest of the way and posting 90 on a Hawkeye team that had yielded just an average of 65.2 points per game entering the day.

Sophomore forward Aaron White put up a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds to pace Iowa, and junior guard Devyn Marble added 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists.

White felt his team responded well after falling into such a big hole on the scoreboard. But in a post-game interview with 800-AM KXIC, he said poor decisions by the group down the stretch canceled any hopes to complete the comeback.

“In the second half, we came out unprepared mentally, but we fought back,” White said in the interview. “It was looking good, but then we ended the game taking bad shots, turning the ball over, and weren’t stopping them. Then they blew it out.”

Virginia Tech senior guard Erick Green, the reigning ACC Player of the Week, led all scorers with 24 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, while sophomore guard Robert Brown notched 18 points for Virginia Tech. The Hokies moved to 6-0 with the win. They had five different players reach double figures and are one of the nation’s best offensive teams, averaging more than 85 points per game on the young season.

“A lot of the reason they shot such a high percentage was transition. We were getting balls to the basket and had ample opportunities to break their defense down, and we settled for 3s,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery told KXIC. “Whenever we missed a 3, and we missed 18 of them, they would score. That’s disappointing.”

The Hawkeyes were dealt a blow less than six minutes into the contest when freshman center Adam Woodbury picked up his second personal foul of the game at 14:11 of the first half. His absence allowed Virginia Tech to dominate the offensive glass for most of the opening frame and outscore Iowa 9-2 in second-chance points as well as get to the free-throw line 15 times compared with the Hawkeyes’ seven.

“We’ve been emphasizing [rebounding] all year long, it’s something we’ve needed to improve on” Virginia Tech head coach James Johnson told KXIC. “It was a focal point; they came in averaging 15 offensive rebounds per game, and we held them to 8. All of our guys stepped up.”

With its nonconference schedule fairly light on quality competition, Iowa can ill afford to lose too many more games prior to the start of the Big Ten season if it hopes to be dancing in the NCAA Tournament come March.

And Tuesday night, after a sloppy 40 minutes filled with undisciplined decision-making highlighted by poor shot selection, the Hawkeyes looked like anything but one of the top 68 teams in America.

“I’m disappointed in the attention to detail on the road, against a team that is undefeated and clearly has talented players,” McCaffery said in his postgame interview. “We just need to mature.”

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