Iowa’s first-half offensive efficiency turned out to be a flash in the pan; in the second half, the Hawkeyes struggled to find the bottom of the basket.
On one hand, Iowa’s offensive production was bound to return to normalcy.
Following perhaps the best offensive half of Iowa’s season, the Hawkeyes fell back to earth in the second half, leading to Iowa’s third-straight loss, a 74-63 defeat at the hands of No. 6 Wisconsin.
Just 27 points, 30.4 percent shooting from the field, and only one made 3. Whatever way one puts it, it wasn’t good. And the Hawkeye offense that showed up in the first half was a far cry from the one in the second half.
“You have to be efficient offensively,” head coach Fran McCaffery said about how to beat Wisconsin. “… I think, because you’re looking at the clock, it’s now under eight minutes, and you’re down 9, you’re thinking, ‘We’ve got to quicken the pace of this game.’
“We had a couple of quick shots, contested shots, and then we had a couple of goofy turnovers that really hurt us.”
Iowa’s offense has been well-documented this season, both through the highs and lows. It’s a strange offense, one that relies more heavily on free throws and second-chance points than it does 3-pointers.
The Jan. 31 game was no different.
But for the first half, Iowa’s offense looked fluid. And more importantly, it was effective.
Iowa shot more than 64 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes; and while it only shot four 3s, the Hawkeyes made three of them. At halftime, it appeared as if the matchup with Wisconsin had the potential to become a shootout.
“We did really well moving the ball side to side, getting the shot we wanted,” Aaron White said. “Making intelligent drives, playing at our pace. I was proud of our offense in the first half.”
The second half was a much different story, much slower in pace and less exciting in terms of made baskets.
The reasons varied. Wisconsin is a solid defensive team, one that has allowed just 55.1 points per game this season — seventh in the nation.
But some of the damage was self-inflicted. Although the Hawkeyes went to the free-throw line 17 times in the second half, they scored just 10 points in the paint, compared with the 22 they scored in the first half.
“[Players] trying to go one-on-one, trying to get all back at once,” Gabe Olaseni said. “I feel like the first half was easier. We flowed a lot more easily.”
Some of it came down to foul trouble as well. Adam Woodbury, who finished with 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting, struggled with foul trouble all game long. So did Jarrod Uthoff, who after picking up his third foul, sat on the bench as Wisconsin rattled off a quick 9-2 run before McCaffery could even think about putting the junior back in.
Perhaps the worst part for Iowa is that its offense seemed to disappear in moments when the Hawkeyes could have snuck back in the game, such as the nearly four minute stretch in the second half in which the Badgers didn’t score.
“Thank goodness,” Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said of Iowa’s cold spell coinciding with Wisconsin’s. “… That could have been a time that changes the tide, but it didn’t, so we kept plugging defensively.”
Not all of Iowa’s second loss to Wisconsin this season can be blamed on offense. Defensive issues, free-throw woes, and a myriad of other aspects plagued the Hawkeyes.
But one can’t help but think what could have been, especially considering that Iowa was still in a game in which Iowa made its fourth field goal of the second half with 3:30 remaining in the game.
“They’re a very good team, so they make adjustments, just as we try to make them,” Woodbury said. “I mean some shots just didn’t fall that were falling in the first half. It’s just one of those things; I don’t think we can shoot 65 percent for a whole game.
“It’s just part of the deal.”