Poor shooting led to collapse against Michigan

SCOTT MILLER

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INDIANAPOLIS — Senior Cyrus Tate said something interesting on Monday. Something that raised a few eyebrows in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“Going into the [Big Ten] Tournament, teams realize we live and die by the 3,” he said.

On the surface, it wasn’t really an admission of fault; it was more of a statement of fact.

Everyone knows head coach Todd Lickliter loves the triple. After all, the Hawkeyes launched 709 shots from deep this season, making 258 (36.4 percent). Not to mention that four perimeter players start for Iowa, and Lickliter’s big-man rotation consists solely of Tate and sophomore Jarryd Cole.

When Lickliter came to Iowa, he promised to bring the same perimeter-oriented game he had success with at Butler to the Big Ten. By recruiting good shooters such as Devan Bawinkel and Matt Gatens, the second-year head coach began the arduous conversion to his system.

It’s a system that has been relatively successful for most of the year, but Thursday was a different story.

In the first of half of Iowa’s opening-round 73-45 walloping at the hands of Michigan, the Hawkeyes shot 6-of-23 (26 percent). Sophomore Jake Kelly, who had scored 19-plus points in six-consecutive contests, settled for jumpers, even though the much shorter C.J. Lee was guarding him on the perimeter.

At one point in the second half, the 6-6 sophomore was matched up against 5-10 David Merritt and still chose to shoot on the perimeter.

While Kelly finished 3-for-11 from the floor, including 1-for-4 from 3-point range, Gatens was an ice-cold 1-of-10. The Hawkeyes hit only 15 shots in the entire contest, four of which came from deep.

“I don’t think they were really doing that [many] things different than the last time we played,” Kelly said. “We just weren’t executing well.

“I think I was forcing some stuff.”

On the season, Iowa has launched 1,469 total shots, making 650 (44 percent). All year, the Hawkeyes have primarily been a jump-shooting team, and they’ve been pretty successful at it.

That wasn’t the case in the first half of the Hawkeyes’ March 7 game against Penn State, when Iowa shot 10-for-28 (36 percent). But by going inside and making the extra pass on the perimeter, Lickliter’s squad was able to turn it around, making 19-of-32 (59 percent) in the second half and two overtimes.

A similar turnaround seemed in store on Thursday as the Hawkeyes jumped out to a quick 7-2 run after halftime, but the momentum quickly dissipated as the Wolverines’ duo of sophomore Manny Harris and junior DeShawn Sims took the game over. John Beilein’s Michigan team shot 29-for-49 (59 percent) on the game.

“They were making shots; we were missing them,” Bawinkel said after finishing with six points Thursday. “They played great defense and on offense, they just out-executed us.”

Yes, for a team that has lived by the jumper all year long, Thursday was brought the harsh reality of what happens when that jumper sails wide, instead of swishing through the net.

“We didn’t knock down shots, and they did,” Gatens said. “That was the difference, and they get the win.”

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