Iowa's season ended abruptly Sunday evening with a devastating loss to Gonzaga. The game proved that Fran McCaffery and Iowa have a long way to go in their quest to be a top tournament team. The team will be without Aaron White next season as his NCAA career has expired after a fantastic career in Iowa City has come to a close.
The game against Gonzaga was a disaster from the start as Kevin Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer both started out with hot shooting from the outside. Gonzaga jumped out to a 25-15 lead with 11 minutes left in the first half, and that was last time Iowa was within single digits in the game. Gonzaga's three point shoot was a complete reversal from what Iowa saw from Davidson as Gonzaga shot 62.5% from three and 61.5% from the field. No one is going to beat a team that shoots like that and it resulted in a 19 point loss for the Hawkeyes.
What We Learned
Aaron White's Shoes May Be Too Big To Fill
White scored 19 points in the loss, his first game under 20 points in exactly 1 month. Iowa relied heavily on White this season. White averaged 5 more points a game in Iowa wins than Iowa losses. All 5 games that Aaron White scored in single digits ended with an Iowa loss. This team went as White did, and now that he's gone Iowa will have a lot of productivity to replace next season. The 4 other starters will return next season, and all will be seniors. It'll take all 4 of them improving significantly next season to replace White. White will go down as one of the best players to ever suit up in the black and gold, and he will be missed in Iowa City.
Neutral Court Games Continue To Haunt Iowa
1-5. That is the Hawkeyes record in neutral court games this season, with the only win coming against Davidson. The losses, in order, were to Texas, Syracuse, Northern Iowa, Penn State, and Gonzaga. None of those teams are pushovers, but you would expect them to pull out at least a few wins against those teams. And it's not like any of those games were even that close, with the Syracuse loss being the only one that was by less than 9 points. I'm not sure what caused their struggles in neutral court games, but Mccaffery needs to figure it out over the offseason.
Defense Wins Championships
Iowa's defense ultimately was their demise against Gonzaga. Iowa was never able to take the Bulldogs out of their rhythm, and one look at the box score will tell you exactly how Gonzaga pulled out the victory. 61.5% from the field and 62.5% from three are absurd shooting numbers. Gonzaga offense was just better than Iowa's defense in every facet of the game. The got open looks from outside and were getting easy opportunities in the paint. Mike Gesell was absolutely schooled by Kevin Pangos all game long to the tune of 16 points on 4-7 shooting from outside. Kyle Wiltjer dropped 24 points on 10-12 shooting. Letting a teams best scorer shoot at 83% isn't a recipe for success.
Gonzaga showed that they are a serious threat for the Final Four, and Iowa showed that they still have a long way to go. They just weren't prepared for such a big game in a hostile environment with everything on the line. Gonzaga was also the more physical team on Sunday, something that Iowa isn't used to. And with White having an off game Iowa needed more than a pedestrian effort from their role players.