GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands — They got their shots from the spots where they’d normally like to take them.
And none of them went down.
The Iowa men’s basketball team went without a field goal for nearly nine minutes in the first half of its opening game at the Cayman Islands Classic on Monday, and its opponent used its offensive shortcomings to run away with the victory.
The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns held a 20-point lead at halftime and withstood a late rally to earn an 80-71 quarterfinal win.
But the real damage came midway through the first half, when Louisiana broke a 10-10 tie with a 21-1 run. Iowa (3-1) missed nine straight shots and turned the ball over six times while Louisiana (3-1) was taking command of the game.
“We were getting good shots,” said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. “You’ve got to recognize when it’s not going first crack. You’ve got to get it the second or third (effort), get a put-back, get them in the press if you want to. Stop the bleeding.”
The spurt started innocently enough with 10:59 left in the half on a 3-point shot by Louisiana’s P.J. Hardy, and after a pair of turnovers by Iowa forward Jack Nunge, Cedric Russell nailed another 3-pointer to make it a 16-10 game.
Ryan Kriener, Isaiah Moss and Tyler Cook missed consecutive shots, and Louisiana pushed the score even further into a rout by converting two layups and a jump shot. The Hawkeyes got one point at the foul line and Frank Barltey IV nailed another 3-pointer to make it a 25-11 game for Louisiana. Iowa didn’t score another field goal until Jordan Bohannon nailed a 3-pointer with 2:15 left in the half.
“It was really frustrating for us because we were getting really good open looks and shots that we’d normally be hitting,” Bohannon said. “You saw the ball was halfway in the basket and popped out most of the time, so that’s really frustrating. We missed a lot of layups. It’s not that we were taking bad shots or anything, but we weren’t making them. Those are normal shots we’d make.”
Louisiana shot 51.6 percent for the first half and led 37-17 at the intermission. It shot 3-for-8 on 3-pointers compared to Iowa’s 1-for-9 mark in the first half, and forward Bryce Washington said the team’s defense was the difference in the game.
“We do a lot of defensive drills to try to get as many stops as possible,” Washington said. “Our assistant coach, Coach (Kevin) Johnson, calls it the bulldog if you can get 10 stops in a row. We’ll do the drill for 45 minutes or an hour trying to get 10 stops in a row. Just competing and trying to get as many stops as possible, because we know, being the team that we have, getting stops will get the win.”
Iowa shot 45 percent and outscored Louisiana, 54-43, in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to get back in the game.
Only two players — sophomores Bohannon and Moss — reached double figures for the Hawkeyes. Bohannon hit four of the team’s five 3-pointers and finished with 21 points. Moss went 10-for-10 from the free throw line to score 24 points.
Freshman forward Luka Garza went scoreless for Iowa and said the first half scoring outage was demoralizing to play through.
“It was crazy,” he said. “We were trying to score on offense. Nothing was hitting. We weren’t moving the ball as well as we could’ve. Shots just weren’t going down. The rim was kind of hard. It just wasn’t going down for us and we were trying to keep consistent on defense. But we started to fade on defense as well. We picked it up in the second half and were able to get some more buckets. ... We just can’t have a run like that.”
“It’s really frustrating,” Bohannon said. “Especially when you’re a shooter like me and like Isaiah and a couple of the big guys who can really shoot from the 3-point line and they’re missing layups. It’s really difficult to stay optimistic for the next possession.”
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Louisiana had four players reach double-digit point totals on Monday. Point guard Marcus Stroman went scoreless, but dished out 11 assists. Bartley scored 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting, and Washington went 6-for-6 from the field and scored 15 points.
Iowa had opened its season with three straight victories and will come back at 11 a.m. (Iowa time) Tuesday to face South Dakota State (3-2), which fell to Wyoming 77-65 on Monday. McCaffery said his players will do their best to rebound from Monday’s loss, and his staff will work overtime to try to find some teachable moments from the game.
“You always have to teach when you don’t play well,” he said. “You can’t play the blame game when your team doesn’t play well. You have to take responsibility as a coach when your team loses. Yes, hold them accountable, but explain what didn’t you do. Don’t scream at them. What didn’t you do? What could you have done differently?”