Cold shooting dooms Iowa in NIT championship loss to Baylor

BY IAN MARTIN | APRIL 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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NEW YORK — The 2013 College Slam Dunk Contest was the lead-in on ESPN Thursday night before Iowa’s NIT championship matchup with Baylor.

The Bears continued the jam-oriented programming as their athleticism spurred the rout of Iowa in a 74-54 win for Baylor’s first-ever NIT championship.

The Hawkeyes (25-13, 9-9 Big Ten) displayed the reasons they failed to make the NCAA tournament, while Baylor (23-14, 9-9 Big 12) looked like a Big Dance-caliber team on Thursday night.

Iowa pulled down 20 offensive rebounds to the Bears’ 5 but missed an atypical number of second-chance lay-ups from those boards.

“We had 20 offensive rebounds against this team,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “Now, that’s effort, that’s special. That should’ve equated to more success offensively.”

The Hawkeyes also shot just 26.1 percent from the field, a tie for the team’s lowest total of the season. The other time Iowa shot as poorly was when the Hawkeyes fell to a Final Four team Wichita State on Nov. 21, 2012.

“We got down a little bit, and shots weren’t falling, so we started pressing,” said Iowa point guard Mike Gesell, who led Iowa in scoring with 13 points. “It’s just one of those tough nights where it seemed like nothing could fall in the hoop for us.”

Pierre Jackson is the big name on the Bears, but Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson deserve much of the credit for the win. The former, a 7-1 freshman made pull-up jump shots as easily as he dunked the ball, ending up with 15 points and 9 rebounds, while the latter led all scorers with 23 points. His most memorable pair of points came on his thunderous two-handed dunk over the Hawekye’s Melsahn Basabe to push the Baylor lead to 37-29.

Jackson also played well with 17 points, including 13 in the second half. The senior affected the game by drawing Iowa’s defensive attention and facilitating the Bears ball movement with his quick passing. Jackson also gave Baylor a 15-point lead with a 3-pointer over two defenders with 10:45 left in the game. The deep ball was part of a 9-2 run for the Bears that seemed to deflate Iowa’s hopes of a comeback.

The Hawkeyes trailed by just 5 at halftime after shooting even worse in the first half (25.0 percent) than in the second half (26.8 percent).

The Baylor lead was whittled to 1 early in the second half, 28-27, when Eric May — playing in his final game for the Hawkeyes — posted up and made a lay-up from the left side of the key.

But Baylor’s size affected Iowa inside and out, and led to the Bears eventually pulling away.

“They protected the basket really well,” Iowa’s Devyn Marble said. “We all missed bunnies around the rim that we’re used to making.”

The junior’s head coach agreed with the assessment.

“We didn’t feel like we played well at all [in the first half]. Seemingly fortunate to be down 5,” McCaffery said. “It seemed like we just kept missing easy shots.”

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