Not enough fight: Iowa falls to Northwestern, 66-61


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EVANSTON, Illinois — In the end, Jarrod Uthoff’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer — the one that sent Iowa’s eventual 66-61 loss to Northwestern to overtime — may have just delayed the inevitable.

Iowa hadn’t played well all day long and arguably had no business being in the game, let alone with a chance to win it. But thus is the case when one plays the team tied for the worst record in the Big Ten.

Good record or bad record, one of the things teams can control is energy, which is where Uthoff thought this game was lost.

“We didn’t start off the game with enough fight,” Uthoff said. “We didn’t have any fight in us, and they came out right on top of us. They had all the energy. They had all the momentum. They just got after it.”

Signs of an Iowa win looked bleak from the get-go. Yes, the Hawkeyes were within single-digits for most of the game and even led on numerous occasions. But they failed to find consistency on the offensive end of the floor.

The Hawkeyes shot just 34.6 percent from the field in the first half, and if not for a few late shot-clock buckets toward the end of the half, they may have trailed by more than 3 at halftime.

For the most part, those struggles continued in the second half, in which Iowa shot 39.1 percent from the field.

“We didn’t establish anything at the rim,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “Offensively, it was all jump shots. And the more you’re shooting jump shots, the more the zone can get out and guard those guys.”

Most of these troubles can be attributed to the Wildcats’ 2-3 zone defense.

Not only did Northwestern’s zone slow the game down to the Wildcats’ pace — Iowa had zero fast-break points, but the Hawkeyes also failed to get the ball inside for a good chunk of the game. When they did, they were typically met with contact.

“As an offensive player, you try to create the contact, but if you’re the one creating the contact and he’s straight up and doesn’t move, that’s tough,” Uthoff said. “That’s not really a foul.

“… I know I got fouled a couple of times, and it looked like Whitey and Woody got fouled, but I can’t really tell you for sure until I watch the film.”

Despite the offensive troubles, Iowa hung around, and with 11 seconds left in the game, it trailed by 3 points and had the ball.

Opting to go for the tie rather than a quick 2, guard Mike Gesell drove the ball down the floor and eventually picked up his dribble. Uthoff then circled behind him, took the handoff, and tried to jump into Northwestern’s Vic Law.

“I was trying to make it seem like he fouled me, maybe get three free throws,” Uthoff said.

He didn’t get the call, but he did sink the shot, sending the game into overtime and giving Iowa a sliver of hope.

That sliver quickly vanished as Iowa’s offensive struggles continued in overtime; Iowa shot 2-for-13 from the field, 0-for-6 from 3-point range, and 3-for-6 from the free-throw line.

“I honestly don’t know,” Gesell said about the overtime struggles. “We were getting decent looks, we were trying to attack, maybe get to the free-throw line at times. We just weren’t able to pull it out.”

The confusion — and frustration — seemed to be shared throughout the team. There was no clear-cut answer for what went wrong and really, no clear-cut answer for where this team goes from here.
Just about the only clear-cut thing that faces the Hawkeyes are the facts, the most important one being that one week ago, Iowa was fresh off a double-digit win over a then-ranked opponent.

Now, it’s fresh off a loss to one of the worst teams in the Big Ten and looking down at maybe having to win out to reach its goal of the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m just thinking about one game at a time,” Gesell said. “Now, we’re focused on the next one. You can’t look ahead.”

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

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