IOWA CITY — When they were watching the Rutgers-Iowa men’s basketball together on television Saturday night in Fran McCaffery’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena office, you don’t suppose Gary Dolphin gently suggested the Hawkeyes could use some offensive help at guard, do you?
No, one guesses not. That’s assuming the social gathering of the two suspended gentlemen occurred the way McCaffery said on Friday that it would. Radio announcer Dolphin, suspended for the duration of this season, might have been better served staying at his Dubuque County home. Iowa’s 86-72 loss to the Scarlet Knights wasn’t particularly watchable from any Hawkeyes-themed rec room.
It was the Week of Woe for McCaffery’s team, which fell to 10-8 in the Big Ten and 21-8 overall. Its 90-70 loss at Ohio State Tuesday and Saturday’s mess sandwiched by Wednesday’s announcement that Iowa had suspended McCaffery for two games following his profane and accusatory postgame exchange with a game official the night before in Columbus.
The Hawkeyes didn’t exactly rally ‘round their assistant coaches Saturday. Since the game had been Andrew Francis’ to scout before his boss’ absence, he got the lead-coach’s role Saturday. He’d like a do-over. So would Iowa’s players.
Rutgers (7-11, 14-14) took an 11-9 lead on a Ron Harper Jr. 3-pointer 5:46 into the game, and was never caught. It was 39-30 at halftime, and the Knights’ lead grew as large as 21 points in the second half.
Harper, the freshman son of the Ron Harper who played on five NBA championship teams, matched his career-high in the first half alone with 16 points, and closed with 27. His previous high was set against ... Iowa.
“Harper had another great game against us,” said Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon. “We didn’t think he was much of a shooter, but he’s making shots.”
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And the Hawkeyes aren’t. They had their third-straight game in Carver that ranged from chilly to frigid. This was icy. Iowa shot 35.7 percent from the field to Rutgers’ 50.8.
The Iowa guard quartet of Bohannon, Isaiah Moss, Maishe Dailey and Connor McCaffery combined for one basket in the game’s first 30 minutes. Iowa’s leading scorer was senior forward Nicholas Baer, who had 17 points in presumably his last home game.
“We were missing free throws, missing bunnies,” said Bohannon.
“Just a weird night shooting the ball.”
It was weird, period, seeing the Hawkeyes get throttled at home by a team that had never won more than three games in a Big Ten season before this.
But it wasn’t sci-fi strange. Iowa hasn’t been sharp in its last six games. Even fans of a Hawkeye bent can’t deny their team was fortunate to win three of those.
The luckiest of the bunch was at Rutgers on Feb. 16 when wing Joe Wieskamp (1-of-7 Saturday) banked in a corner 3-pointer in the last second.
After that game, Rutgers point guard Geo Baker said “We’re going to go get them (at Iowa).”
After Saturday’s game, Baker said “It was an emotional response after a buzzer-beater like that. We just wanted to get revenge.”
Said Harper: “They stole what was ours, that game. That last shot was heartbreaking. That was definitely in our hearts and our heads today.”
Rutgers left the building early Saturday night. The Hawkeyes are left in, well, a rut.
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