Hawks drink from ugliness well


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Nothing felt familiar in Iowa’s 64-59 loss to Minnesota on Thursday night. Not even the warm-ups.
As forward Aaron White prepped for the Hawkeyes 11th Big Ten game of the season, something felt different, or rather, missing.

“I thought we lost this game almost in warm-ups,” White said. “I didn’t think we were ready to go from the beginning. It’s frustrating to say because you’ve got 40 minutes to turn it around, and we never were quite able to do it.”

Iowa came out of the gates OK, although no part of game screamed shootout. But eventually the Hawkeyes hit a wall, a little of which was self-imposed and some a result of Minnesota’s defense, which opted for a bigger starting lineup with Charles Buggs over Carlos Morris.

This big lineup, among a myriad of factors — turnovers and passing up open shots to name a few — was one of the reasons Iowa failed to score a point for slightly more than eight minutes toward the tail end of the first half.

“I thought our defense did really good,” Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino said. “I think [Iowa is] a very good team. It’s hard to beat a team twice.”

Despite the first-half offensive woes, which led to just 19 first-half points for Iowa, there were still opportunities to win in the end, or at least make the game more interesting.

However, on three separate occasions, Iowa took the lead but quickly lost it after a Minnesota basket.

“Our defense was just OK tonight,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “It was all right.

Obviously, not good enough to win. Good enough to be close, good enough to hang around, but not good enough to win.”

Iowa eventually began knocking down its shots — it shot 50 percent in the second half, and with the help of a few 3-pointers, the Hawks had one more opportunity, down 3 with just 19 seconds left.

Left with the chance to take a 3 to tie or a quick 2, point guard Mike Gesell opted for the latter. The play resulted in Minnesota’s Maurice Walker stripping him — Iowa’s 16th turnover of the game. Walker was eventually fouled and knocked down two free throws to seal the victory.

“It was big because guys get scared to be aggressive in that spot,” Pitino said. “They just want to be passive, so for him to have the alertness to get a steal and then knock down big free throws was huge.”

McCaffery did have time-outs to burn before Gesell’s turnover unfolded, yet he chose to hold on to them in case Gesell got stuck in a situation that called for a time-out to bail him out or that he would convert and need a time-out to set up the full-court press on defense.

“Again, coaches are different,” McCaffery said. “If we can get a quick 2, we’re going to take a quick 2 … I’m sure if Mike had to do it over again, he would have either gone or come to a jump stop.”

However, Gesell has no do-over, and as a result, Minnesota left Carver-Hawkeye Arena with its first win at Iowa since 2011 and its fifth win in its last seven games.

All Iowa is left with is questions about how it can quickly turn things around at Northwestern on Feb. 15.

“That’s a great question,” White said. “Just the thought process of you’re going to lose games, but when it comes down to it, what can you do right now that’s going to affect that game?

“… You have to try to spin this into a positive light, which I’m already starting to do in my head. It’ll be a little easier to do after this soaks in.”

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

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