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"The same crap": Iowa's second half woes continue

BY JACOB SHEYKO | DECEMBER 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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After Iowa’s 90-75 loss to Iowa State, Aaron White struggled to put into words what had just occurred. It all happened so fast.

He pointed to Iowa’s State hot shooting — 53.1 percent from the floor and the Hawkeyes’ lack of energy and over-reliance on an offense that shot 39.4 percent from the field.

But the thing that frustrated White the most was that Iowa had reverted to its old ways — the same ways that last season caused numerous second-half breakdowns for the Hawkeyes.

The ways that White — and the Hawkeyes — thought they were done with.

“I don’t really have anything else for you,” White said, clearly frustrated. “Obviously, we can learn a lot from this, because it’s the same crap that happened last year. I thought we were over it.”

Cyclone guard Matt Thomas’ only points of the game, a 3-point shot at the buzzer to end the first half, was arguably the biggest shot of the Dec. 12 game.

The 24-footer at the buzzer ended a half that had seesawed for the first 19 minutes of the contest, and it gave Iowa State all the momentum heading into the break with a 5-point lead.

“That’s big, but you can’t let that dictate the whole second half,” White said. “ … I just felt like our energy level was zapped.”

Then the wheels fell off.

Iowa State missed its first shot of the half, then made 10 straight. In just under seven minutes, the Cyclones turned a 5-point lead into a 25-point rout.

Suddenly, Hawkeye fans were reminded of the team’s collapse last season, a season full of poor second halves, in which 10 of Iowa’s 13 losses occurred when the Hawkeyes were either tied or winning at halftime.

“Well, there are only couple of things,” head coach Fran McCaffery said when asked what he could do as a coach in those situations. “You’ve got to start pushing different buttons.”

So McCaffery pushed. He subbed in bench players, pressed the Cyclones full-court, trapped them in the half-court, and tried to get the ball in the paint on offense. But nothing worked.

Iowa State shot 63.3 percent from the field in the second half, outrebounded the bigger Iowa team 39-37, got out in transition for easy buckets, and converted open looks from 3 when Iowa’s shots fell short.

“We didn’t come out with the swagger you have to have on defense,” guard Mike Gesell said.

“Especially with a high-potent offense like that.”

Iowa’s 60-55 win over North Carolina on Dec. 3 was supposed to mark a turning point for the Hawks this season.

Adam Woodbury said that was a game Iowa would not have won last season. The Hawkeyes countered every North Carolina run with one of their own and came up with defensive stops when they needed to.

It was a game won with toughness and defense, aspects this year’s Iowa team had built its identity on, and something that was lacking against Iowa State.

“The disappointing thing from my end was that we just accepted it and acted like we couldn’t compete,” White said.

The Cyclones tore through sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena, leaving behind a team searching for answers and a direction to go from here.

It’s still only one game, one Gesell said the Hawkeyes would use as a learning experience, one that Iowa would have to sit with for a whole week before it plays another game.

After searching for the right word, White finally found one that accurately depicted Iowa’s performance.

“It’s almost embarrassing,” he said. “We’re better than that. It’s just disappointing because I know we’re better than that. I know I’m better than that. I know as a group we’re better than that. It’s just frustrating and unacceptable, to be honest. That’s best word for it; it’s unacceptable.

“Moving forward, that can’t happen at all.”

Follow @JacobShekyo on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa men’s basketball team.


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