I'll admit it. I had to take a walk after that game. Not a long one, just a brief lap around the block to clear my head. Could it have been concerning for any of my neighbors that may have looked out the window to see a dude in a janky hoodie and athletic shorts talk to himself as he wandered the Celebration sidewalks? More than likely, but that seven point loss to Indiana had me trapped in a glass case of emotion.
I wasn't even coherently texting my friends towards the end of that game. It was just a ton of emojis and "no" typed frantically into one jumbo version of the word. But I just kept telling myself, "It's tough to win on the road".
"It's tough to win on the road."
"It's tough to win at Assembly Hall."
"It's tough to win anywhere when nobody wants to put a body on someone and grab a defensive rebound."
"It's tough to win anywhere when you go 13-23 from the free throw line."
Was I mad that Iowa lost? To start, yes.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm still that same guy that wrote about how happy and proud he was to be a Hawk yesterday. But I'd be lying if I said I was thrilled about Iowa's shot selection for the most part of the first half. Or how there was little to no flow to the actual offense for a good ten minute stretch; where Iowa just looked confused and lackluster.
Were they a little too jazzed up to start that game? More than likely. Did they settle down and eventually find their footing? Of course, it's what this senior-laden team does best.
But there are some minor (but could be major) concerns that manifested themselves tonight.
For starters, everything Iowa did defensively for a good portion of the night didn't work. The button's that Fran McCaffery has pressed so well all season long, looked out of order (probably from him hammering them into submission against Purdue and Michigan State). On the night, Indiana shot 46% from the field and 36% from three point range. Iowa doesn't normally allow that type of shooting from long distance -- according to KenPom, Iowa has the tenth best three point defense at 29.7% per game.
Indiana put on a fantastic offensive display, making Iowa pay when they were out of their normally disciplined defensive positions more times than not and it was a big part of the reason why they won. Do I still believe that Iowa is a very good defensive team that ran into a pretty big buzzsaw AT Assembly Hall? Absolutely. It happens.
Again, it's tough to win on the road.
What should be a bigger cause for concern, was last nights performance from the charity stripe. If Iowa plans on doing some big things in the near, near future -- whether it be a regular season Big Ten Championship, a Big Ten Tournament Championship, a Final Four or all of the above -- last nights performance at the charity stripe needs to be fixed.
THIRTEEN for TWENTY THREE.
Missing ten freebies, on the road, at Indiana, is a death sentence. And it's not the first time this has happened this year. In the six point loss at Maryland, Iowa was 9-15 from the free throw line. It was so ugly last night, that there were people on Twitter trying to figure out when they last time Iowa made two free throws in a row.
I didn't have an answer.
For the most part, Iowa has been a slightly above average free throw shooting team this season according to KenPom, so the output from the two Big Ten losses could be utter anomalies. But so often in these tight conference games in February and during the conference and NCAA tournaments in March, winning and losing comes down to two things: guard play and making your free throws. Iowa has the latter. And I'm hoping they get working a little bit more on the former because they can't have a repeat performance like that in the Sweet Sixteen.
The other glaring problem was the defense rebounding. The Hawkeyes have had a tendency all season long to tap at missed shots, rather than going up strong and ripping it down. They also aren't turning any heads for their propensity to box out. Tom Crean -- much to his credit -- must have seen this on film and rightfully parked Thomas Bryant (five offensive rebounds) underneath the hoop and full out blitzed his weak side guards the minute a shot went up.
This played a huge part in Indiana building up their confidence as the Hawkeyes gave up 12 offensive rebounds that accounted for 17-points in the first twenty minutes of the game.
What I think some other coaches with athletic wings might start doing after watching this tape, is what Crean did multiple times with Troy Williams (five offensive rebounds); sending him flying at the offensive glass from the weak side baseline. This happened a handful of times and it worked. Williams was able to alter the direction of the ball, grab the rebound himself, or lay it back in for the easiest two points possible every time he did it. In fact, the only time I ever saw somebody in a black and yellow uniform try to stop it was in the second half when Mike Gesell hip checked him into the partition and was called for a foul.
But again, it's tough to win on the road.
These are all fixable things for Iowa and I trust this staff and this roster to continuously address these issues (especially before Indiana comes to Iowa City in March). And even with all of these "pressing" issues, Iowa still led by four points with nine minutes left in the game and were within three points with :22 second on the game clock.
I can't speak enough as to how impressed I was that they clawed their way back from being 16-points down in front of one of the most raucous crowds/environments this group has ever played in front of and made what could've been a blowout for any other team, one of the most entertaining, "is it March already" Big Ten college basketball games this year.
And at the end of the day, it's tough to win on the road.
On to the Hawkeyes next sacrificial lamb, Minnesota.