Big Ten road continues to be a nightmare for depleted Iowa men's basketball team

Fran McCaffery

By Pat Harty

Trying to win on the road in the Big Ten is difficult under almost any circumstance.

But try doing it with just six recruited scholarship players and against a team that suddenly find its touch from 3-point range.

No. 21 Iowa faced that daunting task against unranked Indiana on Thursday, and it didn’t go well.

Indiana made 11 3-point baskets and built a double-digit lead in the first half, while withstanding yet another scoring outburst by Iowa junior center Luka Garza, to prevail 89-77 at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.

Iowa was down to seven recruited scholarship players heading into in Thursday’s game with junior forward Cordell Pemsl serving a one-game suspension for driving with a revoked license.

But then it became just six scholarship players when redshirt freshman guard C.J. Fredrick rolled his ankle in the first half and didn’t return.

Iowa trimmed the lead to 10 points in the second half, thanks largely to the 6-foot-11 Garza, who finished with 38 points on 14-of-22 shooting from the field. It marked the fifth time this season that Garza has scored at least 30 points in a game.

Garza now owns two of the top 10 single-game scoring performances in the history of the Iowa program.

Sophomore Joe Wieskamp was the only other player for Iowa to score in double figures with 16 points.

"That's what I've got to do night in and night out," Garza said on the Learfield post-game radio show. "Obviously, I have to do a better job in the future, especially with all the adversity we're facing. So I'm just going to continue to do that, and we've won without some of our guys in the past, and we're going to continue to try and work through all this adversity. And I'm going to keep leading this team no matter what.

"And I'm going to get us some wins."

Indiana was leading 70-58 when Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was called for a technical foul with 4 minutes, 26 seconds remaining. McCaffery appeared to be upset about what he thought should have been a goal-tending call on Indiana.

Replay showed that McCaffery had a legitimate complaint, but the timing of his technical was bad because Iowa had been chipping away at the lead.

The Hoosiers then quickly expanded their lead to 16 points in less than one minute after the technical was called, and that proved too much of a deficit for Iowa to overcome.

The Hawkeyes also hurt themselves by committing 19 turnovers.

"We didn't move the ball and execute our offense as efficiently as we would have liked," Fran McCaffery said on the post-game radio show. "Now granted, we had some guys out, C.J. was out and a couple guys were banged up. That's part of it.

"But we had Luka going, and I thought Joe Wieskamp in the second half, and they were guarding him so closely, I thought he put it on the deck and was attacking the rim. He got us into the bonus early, and now you're in the double-bonus coming down the stretch, so you've got a chance.

"And I think that's some of the good things. We executed some of our late-game stuff, some of our out-of-bound plays, some of our sets."

What Iowa failed to do was contain Indiana guard Devonte Green, who made seven 3-point baskets and finished with 27 points.

"Our zone was good at times," Fran McCaffery said. "We didn't react to Green. You can't let a guy make seven." 

This game was similar to Iowa’s 103-91 loss at Michigan on Dec. 6th in that Garza, who scored 44 points against the Wolverines, was virtually unstoppable on offense, but he just didn’t have enough help in either game.

Iowa’s defense left much to be desired in both games, although, it showed some improvement in the second half against Indiana.

Iowa fell to 17-8 overall and 8-6 in the Big Ten, while Indiana improved to 16-8 and 6-7. Iowa only has one Big Ten road win this season, a 75-62 victory at Northwestern on Jan. 14 in Evanston, Ill.

The Hawkeyes now have just two days to prepare for another road test with Minnesota up next on Sunday in Minneapolis. It seems unlikely based on what Fran McCaffery said after Thursday's game that Fredrick would be available for the Minnesota game on Sunday. 

"It's not good," McCaffery said.

Fredrick’s injury, which Fran McCaffery called an ankle sprain, made a disastrous first half for Iowa even worse as Indiana led 49-35 at the break.

The Hoosiers made 7-of-12 shots from 3-point range in the first half, had an 18-5 advantage in points off turnovers, a 14-3 advantage in fast-break points and a 23-16 rebounding advantage.

The Hoosiers entered Thursday’s game ranked 12th in the Big Ten in 3-point field-goal shooting percentage and averaging just five made 3-pointers per game.

Iowa, on the other hand, only made 2-of-7 shots from 3-points range in the first half and committed 10 turnovers.

Garza made eight of Iowa’s 12 baskets in the first half and scored 21 points in the first half.

Thursday’s game was almost considered a must-win for the struggling Hoosiers, who had lost four games in a row. Four of Indiana's next five games are also on the road.