‘This is probably the worst game we played all year:’ Iowa bounced in first round of NCAA Tournament

No. 5 seed Iowa lost to No. 12 seed Richmond, 67-63, in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on Thursday.


Gabby Drees

Iowa forward Keegan Murray shoots the ball during the first round of the NCAA Men’s Championship between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Richmond Spiders at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, March 17, 2022. Murray earned 21 points. The Richmond Spiders beat the Iowa Hawkeyes 67-63.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

BUFFALO, N.Y. — March Madness is over for the Iowa men’s basketball team.

No. 5 seed Iowa lost to No. 12 seed Richmond, 67-63, in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on Thursday. Four days after the Hawkeyes won their fourth game in four days and earned the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament title, they were stunned in the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, N.Y.

“Couldn’t be feeling worse,” Iowa’s Connor McCaffery said. “There’s only one team that’s going to end on a win, but this is probably the worst game we played all year. And I don’t think it’s close, so it’s definitely not a good feeling in our stomach right now.”

Days after the Hawkeyes broke the Big Ten Tournament record with 46 3-pointers in a four-day span in Indianapolis, they shot 36.4 percent from the floor and knocked down only six of their 29 attempts from deep. The nation’s second-best adjusted-efficiency offense scored only .9 points per possession and turned the ball over 11 times in its loss.

Iowa’s scoring output against Richmond was its lowest since Jan. 19 against Rutgers (46 points).

“We were missing shots we normally make,” Iowa forward Keegan Murray said.

Richmond advances to the Round of 32, where it will play No. 4 seed Providence on Saturday.

Iowa is headed to the same place it went in 2006, the last time it won the Big Ten Tournament: Back to Iowa City after a first-round loss in the national tournament. Iowa has not advanced past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in any of its 12 seasons under head coach Fran McCaffery, who has never led a team to the Sweet 16 as a head coach.

The last time the Hawkeyes made the Sweet 16 was in 1999.

“It’s not about what I want,” Fran McCaffery said. “I want what they want. I want them to experience it. That’s where I’m coming from. I’m just disappointed for them. Because they came a long way.”

Iowa trailed Richmond by one at halftime after only hitting one of its 13 first-half 3-pointers. The Spiders extended their lead to six points early in the second half. Then, Patrick McCaffery started to heat things up for the Hawkeyes. The sophomore forward hit two 3-pointers in a span of 33 seconds en route to an 11-0 Iowa run.

Iowa jumped out to a five-point lead — its biggest of the game. It didn’t last very long.

The Hawkeyes didn’t score on seven straight possessions and the Spiders went on an 11-0 run of their own later in the second half. Keegan Murray banked in an and-one with 2:02 remaining to bring Richmond’s lead down to one. The Hawkeyes never got closer than that.

Richmond knocked down two layups and five free throws in the final two minutes of game time, never letting Iowa take the lead.

Keegan Murray scored 21 points (8-of-15 from the floor) and hauled in nine rebounds. Iowa went 10 and eight-minute spans without Murray scoring in the second half. Nine of his 11 second-half points came in the final three minutes of the game. Patrick McCaffery scored 18 points and hit a career-high four 3-pointers.

Iowa (26-10 overall, Big Ten Tournament Champions) entered Thursday as a 10.5-point favorite over Richmond (24-12, Atlantic 10 Tournament Champions). By the time the Hawkeyes left the KeyBank center, their season was over.

“Richmond is a really great team,” Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon said. “I thought we played one of my worst basketball halves all season in the first half, and we were only down one. So I knew we had a little bit of light left still in us, and we made a little bit of a run, but got to credit them. They did everything great tonight. They were locked in, and they’re playing some of their best basketball this season right now.”

Futures unclear for Connor McCaffery, Keegan Murray

Keegan Murray and Connor McCaffery may have both just played their final games in Hawkeye uniforms. Murray is a projected lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, while McCaffery went through Senior Day ceremonies, but has yet to officially declare that his college basketball career is over.

Murray has not declared for the draft or publicly stated whether he will stay or leave.

McCaffery has the option to return for another season because he has a year of eligibility remaining that the NCAA afforded to players because of the pandemic.

“I think he will take a little bit of time to think it through,” Fran McCaffery said of his son. “Obviously I would love to have him back. He has the opportunity. He’s a winner. There’s so much love and respect for him in that locker room. So we’ll see.”

Brackets are busted

Shortly after Richmond’s upset win was complete, ESPN sent out a notification saying that 10.3 percent of the brackets in its men’s tournament challenge had Iowa reaching the Final Four.

So much for that.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” Richmond head coach Chris Mooney said. “That was a tremendous effort. Particularly a great defensive effort against one of the best offenses in the country. Big Ten champs — that’s a tremendous win for Richmond.”

Controversy surrounding non-call

Iowa forward Kris Murray attempted a 3-pointer with the Hawkeyes down by three with 56 seconds remaining in the game. There was apparent contact from a Richmond defender, and Murray’s shot was off the mark.

“I have not seen the replay,” Fran McCaffery said. “I remember Kris’s reaction, which I think was pretty dramatic. It was upsetting for him. I feel bad for him. He is a pretty good shooter. He is typically not going to shoot and miss by that much in that situation. But again, it’s on the other side of the floor, so I think it would be inappropriate for me to say, oh, it was a terrible call. I’m 45 feet away from it, so I’ll just defer to the official on that.”