IOWA CITY — Nobody blamed Iowa’s disjointed men’s basketball performance Sunday on the absence of its head coach.
Fran McCaffery couldn’t be with the Hawkeyes during their 86-72 Carver-Hawkeye Arena loss to Rutgers Saturday. Nor can he coach in their next game, Thursday at Wisconsin. He was given a two-game suspension Wednesday by Iowa athletics director Gary Barta because of an altercation with a Big Ten game official following the previous night’s game at Ohio State.
“Of course we want Coach out there with us,” said Hawkeye junior forward Tyler Cook. “He’s the main voice that we hear every day.
“But at the end of the day we’re grown men and we’ve got to go out there and execute regardless of who’s at the helm.”
Andrew Francis, an Iowa assistant since McCaffery made him his first hire here nine years ago, was the acting head coach in this game because he had already been assigned the team’s scouting assignment for Rutgers. Kirk Speraw will have that role at Wisconsin.
“It’s a different view, that’s for sure,” Francis said after the game. “It felt good, but it felt obviously different. Those guys are used to my voice, just in a different capacity.”
The execution simply wasn’t there. Iowa shot just 35.7 percent from the field, made only 8 of 29 3-pointers, and allowed 50.8 percent shooting and a whopping point total to a team not known for dynamic offense.
Jordan Bohannon, Isaiah Moss and Joe Wieskamp — starters who all entered the game averaging over 10 points a game in Big Ten play — were a combined 5-of-22 from the field.
“We’re still getting shots that you know we’re capable of making, we’re getting the guys who are good shooters good looks,” Francis said. “Today was a game that a couple guys struggled. We’ve just got to keep battling through, and not lose our confidence.
“We’re obviously disappointed in the outcome, but we feel good about who we are and where we are.”
Iowa is 10-8 and solidly in sixth place in the conference, but is 3-3 over the last six games and coming off two straight decisive defeats.
“These guys have worked hard to get in this position and want to make sure we continue to forge forward,” Francis said, “because there’s still a lot of season left.”
But for now, Iowa has a coach that is suspended and a season that feels suspended in what junior forward Tyler Cook called “a small rough patch.”
Next is No. 18 Wisconsin, in Madison on Thursday. That’s a tough place to find smoother footing.
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