It is beginning to sound like a broken record. But there is no other way to describe the late-game failures for the Iowa men’s basketball team.
After blowing a big advantage to win at Purdue last week, the Hawkeyes once again failed to come up with a season-saving victory at No. 23 Minnesota.
Iowa led by 4 with 2:10 to play but did not score the rest of the way as the Gophers finished the home contest on a 7-0 run and dropped the Hawkeyes 62-59 in front of 14,625 fans at “The Barn” in Minneapolis, Minn.
It was a similar ending to the Purdue loss. Iowa just doesn’t have a late-game playmaker that can win it games. The Hawkeyes turned it over with a chance to win the game inside the final 10 seconds. Before that, Roy Devyn Marble threw a pass out of bounds with about 40 seconds to go and Iowa on top by two.
Marble finished with zero points and was 0-for-2 from the floor in 17 minutes. Something is wrong with the Hawkeyes’ go-to player as he has made poor decisions at the end of two straight road games.
It wasn’t a must-win for the Hawkeyes. There are still wins to get. But a victory over a nationally ranked foe on its homecourt could have propelled Iowa back into the NCAA Tournament discussion.
The Gophers (17-5, 5-4) jumped out to a 14-2 lead with a 12-0 to start the game. Iowa battled back with solid play from its bench and some key 3-pointers by Zach McCabe and Josh Oglesby. The Hawkeyes (14-8, 3-6) trailed by one at halftime and held a four-point advantage four different times in the second half only to see the lead evaporate in the closing seconds.
Both teams executed well out of timeouts, but the Gophers got the last dagger in those situations as Austin Hollins buried an open look at a 3 with 11 seconds to go with his team down two. That eventual game-winner came on an inbounds play out of a Minnesota timeout.
Hollins led the way for the Gophers with 17 points, while Andre Hollins was one of three others who reached double-figures with 15 points, six rebounds and eight assists. Rodney Williams added 10 points and seven boards, and Joe Coleman contributed 12 points.
Iowa rallied in the first half behind a strong bench. The Hawkeye reserves outscored Minnesota 27-0, led by McCabe’s 10 and Oglesby’s eight. Freshman Mike Gesell led the team with 11 points and a career-high six rebounds.
Sophomore Aaron White also had 10 points and five rebounds, but Iowa shot just 36 percent from the floor and was 7-of-23 from long range.
Another reason for the loss could have been blamed on free throws as the Hawkeyes connected on just 10-of-17 and did not hit two straight at the line until midway through the second 20 minutes.
The Gophers hit 45 percent from the floor but were only 4-of-16 from deep.
Iowa took its first lead at 40-39 with 13:35 to play. It had multiple four-point leads but went scoreless in the final 2:10 during a Minnesota 7-0 run that resulted in the loss.
Iowa still can find a way to punch an NCAA Tournament berth but will not be able drop many more games like this.
If the Hawkeyes win the games they are supposed to win and run the table the rest of the way at home, they should finish with 20 wins. That may be enough to get in but a few wins in the Big Ten Tournament would help.
If the Hawkeyes are to advance to the NCAA Tournament, Marble will have to step up and starting closing out games for the black and gold. He was barely on the floor enough to impact the game at all Sunday. But when Fran McCaffery finally went to him, he turned the ball over on a key possession.
That has to change. And Marble has got to be better.
Right now, the Hawkeyes are missing Matt Gatens and that late-game experience he brought to the table. The only other guard who has the experience in big games is Marble.
It has to be his time. Or the Hawkeyes will once again be asked to leave off the dance floor.