Opening deficits a disturbing trend for Iowa men

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IOWA CITY — Iowa’s most recent three opponents have outscored the Hawkeyes at an alarming rate off the opening tip, a trend the players and coaches say cannot continue.

At Purdue, the Hawkeyes (14-8, 3-6 Big Ten) missed their first six shots, and trailed 10-2 nearly six minutes into their game. Penn State built a 10-3 lead six minutes in its game at Iowa, which sank just one of its first six shots.

Most disturbing for Iowa was going down 14-2 in the first five minutes at Minnesota on Sunday. In the lead-up to Sunday’s game, Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery addressed starting strong. Afterward he said the early 12-point deficit cost the team the game.

“I was pretty upset because you can’t go on the road and get down 14-2,” McCaffery said. “We fought and fought and fought. I’m proud of that. But it’s a 40-minute game. You spot Minnesota — in their building — 14-2, it’s going to be really hard to win.”

Iowa missed four of its first five shots against the Gophers, which produced long rebounds and led to easy baskets. The Hawkeyes clawed back and led for most of the second half, but the early spurt cost the team valuable momentum.

“We’ve got to start from the get-go,” Iowa guard Mike Gesell said. “We dug ourselves a hole again. We’ve done that too many times this season. We’ve got to get that out of our games and play a full 40 minutes.”

The opening tally isn’t good for Iowa, which travels to Wisconsin (15-7, 6-3 Big Ten) on Wednesday (8 p.m., BTN). Counting the first six minutes of each game — 18 minutes — Iowa has trailed 34-8. The Hawkeyes have missed 15 of 17 shots. Each time the Hawkeyes later put themselves in position to win, which they did by nine against Penn State. But Iowa dropped the other two games in the final seconds or overtime.

“We can’t spot teams that many points,” Iowa senior Eric May said. “You can’t play a game digging yourselves out of a hole. That’s what we did. We have to be ready to play. That’s kind of been an issue on road games, and we’ve got to address that and take care of it and get it fixed.”

“We need to know we’re a great team, and we need to play like it at the beginning of the game,” Iowa junior Zach McCabe said. “We just need to come out and play with energy. We were a little flat in the beginning.”

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