Woeful ending for Hawkeye hoops

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Villanova made minced meat of the Hawkeyes in the NCAA Tournament.

By Kyle Mann | [email protected]

BROOKLYN, New York — Well, it happened. And it was as bad as many feared.

The Hawkeyes were perhaps the single coldest team in the nation entering the NCAA Tournament, falling from No. 3 in the country and a possible No. 1 seed to a No. 7 seed and narrowly avoiding being upset by Temple on March 18. They weren’t nearly as lucky against No. 2 Villanova.

The Wildcats ran the Hawkeyes out of the gym, cruising to an 87-68 victory.

Iowa has struggled in nearly every aspect of basketball over the past two months, seeing its shooting numbers fall off drastically while opponents’ nmbers rose and losing seemingly any sort of rhythm or chemistry on either side of the court.

On Sunday, the Hawkeyes ran into one of the best two-way teams in the country, and their day of reckoning was finally upon them.

“A lot of times, really talented offensive teams play defense in spurts, and they don’t,” Hawkeye coach Fran McCaffery said. “They play defense equally as well as they play offense.”

The game was close for about seven minutes, as Iowa made a few 3s and a pair of Mike Gesell midrange jumpers to keep the game tied at 13, but Villanova was clearly having too much success penetrating the lane for close looks at the basket.

As such, Iowa was forced to go to a zone defense, and as has happened on several occasions throughout 2016, that’s when the wheels fell off.

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Iowa’s only chance to keep things close was to force the Wildcats to shoot from the outside, where they can go cold at times. Against the zone, however, Nova had open look after open look and ultimately went 7-of-12 from beyond the arc in the first half, markedly better than their season average.

All of a sudden Villanova led by 9 at the 10-minute mark, and things got awfully slippery for the Hawks from there.

After committing just 3 turnovers against Temple, the Hawkeyes gave up the ball eight times in the first half leading to 12 Villanova points. They weren’t doing themselves any favors and also did not have a single made free throw, fast-break point, point off a turnover, or second-chance point in the first half.

“We played a terrible 20 minutes,” Anthony Clemmons said. “They hit us, and they hit us hard.”

Things got ugly in a hurry, as Villanova steamrollered ahead to a 54-29 advantage at halftime.

After a 7-2 Nova run to begin the second half put Iowa down by 30, McCaffery waved the proverbial white flag only three minutes in, subbing out both of Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok, his two top (and at times, only capable) scorers.

It was clear that even Uthoff (16 points) and Jok (11 points) were only marginally effective at best, if that, as in typical fashion half of their combined shots came from beyond the arc, but they hit on only 4-of-12 attempts. The most glaring disruption presented by Villanova, however, was the 13 turnovers forced.

Five in the second half was better than the 8 in the first, a big reason Iowa felt the second half went a little better. Unfortunately for the hawks, the damage had been done.

As suffocating as the Nova defense was, to be paired with such an efficient offense made it clear why Villanova is on the short list of teams that could make a run toward the title.

“They spread the floor really well, they penetrated us, they were driving and kicking really well,” Uthoff said. “They killed us.”

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