IOWA CITY, Iowa —
For 20 minutes on Wednesday, Indiana State showed the nation why it earned a National Invitation Tournament bid.
For the last 20 minutes, the Sycamores showed why they lost seven of their last nine games.
After controlling parts of the first half, ISU trailed by one at halftime, but its second-half inability to prevent mistakes ensured that its season would come to an end. Iowa won 68-52 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“We didn’t contest them as well in the second half as we did in the first half. It came down to us defensively again. It’s something we have to fix or we’re never going to accomplish anything,” ISU forward R.J. Mahurin said.
Justin Gant led ISU with 16 points, but he was the only Sycamore who scored in double figures. Devyn Marble led Iowa with 24 points. Aaron White chipped in a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
ISU (18-15) met its end thanks to turnovers and lack of concentration on both ends of the floor to end the first half and to start the second half.
ISU had six turnovers in the first five minutes of the second half — three by point guard Jake Odum — and Iowa took maximum advantage with a 16-4 run to put the game out of the Sycamores’ reach. ISU missed 11 of its first 14 shots in the second half.
“We were right there. We were right there with a very good team, a team that we still think we could have beat,” ISU coach Greg Lansing said. “But when you play like that, it comes down to possession basketball a lot of times and you can’t just hand them [the ball]. They are so good in transition.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey was surprised the Hawkeyes could force Odum to give the ball up.
“That kid is as good a point guard as I’ve seen on film all year long. I mean that sincerely,” McCaffrey said. “I have not seen him turn it over as much as he turned it over tonight.
“We changed how we are playing ball screens with him. We pressed him a little and we played zone and man. We tried to take away his space. The other thing? We kept him off the free throw line,” McCaffrey added.
Included in ISU’s rough start to the second half was an embarrassing technical foul for having six players on the floor at the 14:20 mark. There was miscommunication between Khristian Smith, who entered the game, and Manny Arop, for whom Smith was substituting.
“It was a miscommunication between Khristian and me. It had nothing to do with the result of the game,” Arop said.
After Zach McCabe made the pair of technical foul free throws to put the Hawkeyes up by nine, he buried a pair of 3-pointers to put Iowa up 47-34.
“That was really big there in that stretch. I thought even before that, I mean, obviously, we’ve got six guys on the court. We were a little out of whack in all areas to start the second half,” Lansing said.
The Sycamores couldn’t land any punches in the second half, and once Iowa took the lead, the game was effectively over.
While the second half was nightmarish, the first half had offered promise. ISU staked itself to a 6-0 lead on the strength of two Mahurin 3-pointers, but Iowa came back and took an 11-9 lead at the 11-minute mark as the game morphed into its expected defensive grind.
The Sycamores then took the initiative. A 12-2 run propelled ISU to a 21-13 lead. Gant and Dawon Cummings provided all of the scoring during the run, Cummings on breakaways off Iowa turnovers, Gant primarily in the paint.
But after their early success, the game turned on a dime against the Sycamores. ISU led 26-18 when the Hawkeyes — who spent most of the half shooting in the 20-percent range — heated up and got more opportunities in transition. The Hawkeyes (21-12) finished the half on a 13-2 run to take a 31-30 halftime lead.
Iowa’s ability to score in transition was something that had been emphasized prior to the game..
“They got a lot of fast-break points and that was one of the main things we talked about coming in here,” Arop said. “It’s been kind of the case towards the end of the season. We haven’t been able to come through. We haven’t been able to stop things the coaches had on the scouting report.
“We had two things on our board today. We couldn’t give them transition and we had to keep them off the offensive boards [Iowa had 17 offensive rebounds]. It’s very frustrating.”
Had ISU won, it would’ve hosted a NIT game. No. 2-seeded Massachusetts was upset by No. 7-seeded Stony Brook 71-58 in another Wednesday NIT contest.
INDIANA STATE (52) — Arop 1-3 0-0 2, Mahurin 2-8 0-0 6, Gant 6-14 4-4 16, Cummings 2-6 0-0 4, Odum 2-6 0-0 5, Kitchell 0-1 0-0 0, Eitel 1-2 0-0 3, Brown 2-3 2-3 6, R.Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Burnett 1-4 4-4 6, K.Smith 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 19-50 FG, 10-11 FT, 52 TP.
IOWA (68) — Basabe 4-9 1-2 9, White 3-8 5-7 11, Woodbury 2-3 0-0 4, Marble 7-15 8-10 24, Gesell 1-5 0-0 2, Olaseni 1-2 0-2 2, Oglesby 1-3 0-0 3, Clemmons 0-0 0-0 0, Rickert 0-0 0-0 0, Denning 0-0 0-0 0, McCabe 2-8 2-2 8, Ingram 0-0 0-0 0, May 1-4 2-3 5, Stokes 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-57 FG, 18-26 FT, 68 TP.
Halftime score — Iowa 31-30. 3-point shooting — ISU 4-17 (Mahurin 2-7, Odum 1-2, Eitel 1-2, Cummings 0-3, Arop 0-1, Gant 0-1, Burnett 0-1), Iowa 6-19 (Marble 2-5, McCabe 2-5, May 1-2, Oglesby 1-2, Gesell 0-3, White 0-2). Rebounds — ISU 27 (Odum 7, Cummings 4, Gant 3, Burnett 3, Arop 2, Brown 2, Team 2, Mahurin, Kitchell, Eitel, K.Smith), Iowa 42 (White 13, Basabe 8, Marble 5, Olaseni 3, McCabe 3, Team 3, May 2, Oglesby, Clemmons). Assists — ISU 12 (Cummings 5, Odum 3, Arop, Mahurin, Eitel, Burnett), Iowa 11 (Marble 6, White, Gesell, Oglesby, McCabe, May). Steals — ISU 7 (Gant 2, Odum 2, Brown 2, Cummings), Iowa 9 (Marble 4, May 2, White, Gesell, Ingram). Blocks — ISU 0, Iowa 4 (Olaseni 2, Basabe, Woodbury). Turnovers — ISU 16 (Odum 6, Arop 2, Brown 2, K.Smith 2, Mahurin, Cummings, Kitchell, Burnett), Iowa 13 (White 4, Woodbury 3, Clemmons 3, Marble, Gesell, Olaseni). Total fouls — ISU 17, Iowa 13. Fouled out — Cummings. Technical foul — ISU team. A — 15,400.
Next — Iowa (22-12) will play host to Stony Brook. ISU concluded its season at 18-15.