The week leading into Christmas is a notoriously bad one for college basketball. There are few noteworthy matchups and the vast majority of the games feature name brand teams facing opponents fans didn’t even know existed.
Well, one of the few games that had some level of intrigue for the Big Ten this week was Iowa’s matchup with North Dakota on Tuesday night. Iowa entered the game with a three-game winning streak and North Dakota was 5-4 with most of its losses coming against quality competition.
It looked like a nice opportunity for both teams to add a decent resume win.
The game itself was relatively competitive throughout. Iowa ended up pulling away right before halftime, but North Dakota gradually closed it up in the second half. Although Iowa was never in serious danger of losing the game, it did get pushed a bit late and ended up winning by a final score of just 84-73.
However, the biggest storyline from the game happened in the final seconds.
In a bold move in the game’s final seconds, North Dakota attempted a buzzer-beater, despite trailing by 11 points at the time. It wasn’t an unprecedented move, but it was one that didn’t sit well with Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery.
He then decided to walk off with his team without a handshake.
North Dakota, down 11, tried to beat the buzzer.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 21, 2016
Fran McCaffery wasn't a fan, so he had Iowa walk off the court. https://t.co/PLkItzgxq0
And McCaffery was still pretty fired up when asked to explain his move.
“I wasn't pleased with how the game ended and the things that happened,” McCaffery said. “I will say this: I have a lot of respect for Brian [North Dakota head coach] and certainly Jeff Horner. I don't think they teach that kind of stuff, but I was not having it. That's not the way to play.”
He also specifically expressed concern about the intensity in the closing seconds.
“The game's over,” McCaffery commented. “We don't need Pete getting knocked to the floor. We don't need guys getting up in Jordan's face. We don't need Nicholas Baer's head getting chopped off. We don't need it. We won.”
This is one of those unusual situations where both sides seem to be partially right. It’s hard to fault North Dakota for fighting to the final buzzer, but it’s also tough to blame McCaffery for getting angry about it. We’ve seen plenty of players get injured in games like this where one side had already won. The results can be frustrating.
Whether McCaffery will suffer any punishment from the Big Ten for his move on Tuesday is unknown, but fans will have to wait to see in the coming days. There’s no doubt that this will bring back plenty of memories of McCaffery’s past incidents, including the time when he threw a chair in 2012.
ESPN has since reported that McCaffery apologized for his behavior following Wednesday night’s win over North Dakota. McCaffery told ESPN that he “fel[t] bad about it” and “wish[ed] it didn’t happen.”