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INDIANAPOLIS — Iowa's two most-anticipated games of the 2020-21 men's basketball season were three months apart, against Gonzaga and Oregon. It turned out neither was a game Hawkeye fans wanted to see.
Oregon's Ducks did to the Hawkeyes Monday just what No. 1 Gonzaga did in December. Out-shot them, out-quicked them, and overwhelmed a defense that had teeth in the last month of the Big Ten season.
'Our advantage was driving the ball at them, making plays,' Oregon Coach Dana Altman said. 'We knew we were at a disadvantage inside. I thought the ball movement was the key.'
'It's a hard team to cover in so many different ways,' Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery said. 'They stretch your defense.'
The Big Ten was supposed to harden Iowa and its league brothers for the NCAA tournament. It has done no such thing, with yet another example being Oregon's 95-80 second-round triumph over the Hawkeyes at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Ducks (21-6) are going to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time since 2013. That's a feast. The Hawkeyes (22-9) are going their separate ways before the Sweet 16 for the 20th-straight year there's been an NCAA tourney. That's a famine.
Iowa is 0-4 in NCAA second-round games under McCaffery, with this the first time it was the higher seed.
It turned out the regular-season champion of the Pac-12 was too much for the Big Ten's third-place team, despite Iowa being a No. 2 NCAA seed and Oregon a No. 7. The Big Ten's hype blitz bowled over everyone in college basketball this winter, including the NCAA's tournament selection committee.
The Ducks scored the last 10 points of the first half for a 56-46 lead at the break after a dizzying first 18 minutes that featured 10 lead changes. That segment was fun for all. The rest was just Ducky.
Fran McCaffery pulled starting guards Jordan Bohannon, CJ Fredrick and Connor McCaffery with 17:44 left and his team down 67-51. The three were scoreless and finished that way.
Bohannon made a brief return. Fran McCaffery said he took Fredrick and Connor McCaffery out for the duration because they were hurting. Connor has a torn labrum in each hip and will have offseason surgeries on them. Fredrick reportedly has dealt with plantar fasciitis through the second half of the season.
Replacements Keegan Murray, Patrick McCaffery and Joe Toussaint joined Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp for a 6-0 run, but the subs were no better against Oregon's transition and half-court offense than the starters, and it was 75-57 at the 11:50 timeout.
The high-flying Ducks, meanwhile, had four players with at least 17 points, led by AP Pac-12 Player of the Year Chris Duarte's 23, and shot 55.9 percent. Dunks are good shots.
Oregon's defensive strategy looked like it was to let Garza have his and deny the others. Garza got 36 points to finish his illustrious Iowa career with a school-record 2,306. Wieskamp had 17. But the other Hawkeyes shot a combined 10-of-31.
'I really wanted to lead this team to where we could be,' Garza said. 'Our season wasn't supposed to be over today.'
But it's a tournament of matchups, as many have said. The Hawkeyes had a very good season, but this was a very bad matchup for them. And so the season ends.
'I'm really excited for the future,' Fran McCaffery said.
The immediate future, however, doesn't include the Sweet 16.
Garza, the AP National Player of the Year, summed it up in two words.
'Incredibly heartbreaking,' he said.
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