Iowa stumbles in NIT finale

NEW YORK — One hour before tip-off at Madison Square Garden, Baylor’s players knocked down shot after shot after shot. Iowa’s players stood and looked at the backboard and orange rim.

The net on Iowa’s basket had yet to arrive. Figuratively, it never did.

Iowa (25-13) lost its bid for an NIT championship last night the way it lost many of games this year. The Hawkeyes failed to knock down critical shots at the basket time and time again. In its 74-54 loss to Baylor (23-14), Iowa missed inside and outside, shooting just 26.1 percent for the game.

“It was just frustrating,” Iowa junior Devyn Marble said. “We couldn’t get stops, we couldn’t make shots.”

Marble, Iowa’s leading scorer, was held to six points on 3-of-12 shooting. Second-leading scorer Aaron White scored 12 points, but he was 4-of-13 from the field.

While the Hawkeyes struggled offensively, the Bears sizzled. Baylor hit 54.2 percent, including 65.2 percent in the second half. The Bears outscored Iowa 36-18 in the paint and dunked 11 times.

“We’ve had games like that, but I don’t think we made the defensive stops that we needed,” Marble said. “We’ve struggled shooting pretty much all season and we’ve overcome that with good defense. We didn’t do that tonight.”

Baylor also showed how quickly it could respond to an Iowa run.

After Eric May hit back-to-back shots — including a 3-pointer — to bring Iowa within 28-27, Baylor scored eight points with lightning execution in 52 seconds. First, Cory Jefferson hit a jumper. After Iowa’s Adam Woodbury missed a four-foot jumper, Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson drilled a 3-pointer to push the lead to 33-27.

Baylor’s Isaiah Austin blocked Devyn Marble’s attempt and the rim, and Jackson was fouled and sank two more free throws.

“We cut it to one, but seemed like we just kept missing easy shots,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery McCaffery said.

Then when Iowa responded with two Aaron White free throws, Baylor’s Cory Jefferson dunked on consecutive possessions to give the Bears a 10-point advantage. It got worse from there for Iowa, which couldn’t stop Jackson or Baylor’s inside presence.

Iowa pulled down 20 offensive rebounds, one more than on defense. But starting post players Melsahn Basabe and Adam Woodbury combined to go 0-for-9 from the field.

“They protected the basket really well with big men, their length, athleticism,” Marble said. “I think we were missing a few bunnies we normally wouldn’t miss.”

Freshman Mike Gesell led the Hawkeyes with 13 points.

Marble’s streak of four straight games with 20-plus points was snapped but he still was named to the all-tournament team. Jackson, who scored 17 and dished 10 assists was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Baylor’s Cory Jefferson scored 23 points to lead all scorers.

May, Iowa’s only senior, stood red-eyed but proud in the locker room afterward.

“We never want it to come to an end, but it’s a little bitter with a loss,” he said. “I’m proud of these guys, proud of this team, proud of what we accomplished.”

We never want it to come to an end, but it’s a little bitter with a loss. I’m proud of these guys, proud of this team, proud of what we accomplished.

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