Dec. 20, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
DES MOINES, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team couldn’t overcome a 3-for-24 shooting effort in the second half, falling 56-44 to Northern Iowa in the night cap of the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic on Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Hawkeyes led 29-23 at the break before Northern Iowa opened the second half with a 16-3 run, turning a six-point deficit into a 39-32 lead at the 11:32 mark. Iowa missed its first 10 shots.
“We didn’t make shots and then we went to 1-on-1 action,” said senior Aaron White on what led to the team’s second-half struggles. “Facing a team like that, they’re going to load to the ball. We need to be diligent to move the ball side-to-side and screen it in. We couldn’t get anything to fall.”
Despite its second-half struggles, Iowa was still within striking distance late in the second half.
Trailing 49-41 with four minutes to play, sophomore Peter Jok got an open look from the corner, but it didn’t fall. Iowa closed the gap to six points on a pair of Mike Gesell free throws with 2:34 remaining, but UNI’s Matt Bohannon provided the dagger on the ensuing possession.
“If Pete’s 3 goes down, as crazy as it is, we still have a chance,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “That’s how we have to look at it.”
The Panthers zipped the ball inside-and-out with strong ball movement before finding Bohannon for a 3-pointer from the corner — a make that pushed the UNI lead to 52-43 with 2:02 to play.
Iowa shot a season-low 27.5 percent from the floor, making 14-of-51 field goal attempts. The Hawkeyes went 3-of-12 from 3-point land and were 13-of-18 from the free throw stripe. After committing three turnovers in the first half, Iowa had 10 miscues over the final 20 minutes, including five during a pivotal second-half stretch.
“I didn’t see a ton of horrendous shots,” said McCaffery. “We were trying to work the ball inside; we shot it quick a few times and settled for jumpers. We fumbled some balls and passes… things like that all seemed to happen at the same time.”
“Our guys found another level of defense in the second half,” said UNI head coach Ben Jacobson. “The guys care a lot more about the defense right now and that makes up for the mistakes you make.”
Gesell was the only Hawkeye in double figures, finishing with 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting. White scored nine points and had seven rebounds, and junior Jarrod Uthoff had six points and nine rebounds.
Northern Iowa shot 55 percent from the floor in the second half and 45.5 percent for the game. The Panthers out-scored Iowa, 22-14, in the paint, got 28 bench points, and scored 16 points off Iowa’s 13 turnovers.
All 10 Northern Iowa players that played scored with Paul Jesperson leading the way with 10 points on three 3-pointers. Forward Seth Tuttle scored nine points and had eight rebounds with all of his scoring coming in the second half.
The Hawkeyes led 29-23 lead at the break in a slow-paced, half-court minded first half. Northern Iowa led 8-4 early before Iowa grabbed its first lead on a Gesell 3-pointer at the 13:40 mark.
After falling behind 18-15 with 6:53 remaining in the first half, Gesell’s second 3-pointer tied the game at 18 before the Hawkeyes scored 8-of-10 points to grab a 26-20 lead. Jesperson ended Iowa’s 8-0 run with a 3-pointer with 1:37 left, but White answered with a 3-ball of his own 30 seconds later for the final points of the first half.
Iowa (8-3) closes out nonconference play, hosting North Florida at 7 p.m. (CT) on Monday night on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“We have to stay together, united as one,” said White. “We know there are going to be naysayers, but we have to stay together and fight through this little spell we’re in. We’re going to do it together.”