Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa basketball failed by shooting, rebounding, defense in 99-88 loss to No. 1 Gonzaga

Zags weren't supposed to be a good 3-point team. Guess again.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Iowa got a measuring stick. It poked the Hawkeyes in the ribs.

No. 1 Gonzaga brought a top-shelf game Saturday at Sanford Pentagon, beating the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes with chemistry, cohesiveness and character.

Wait, those were the words Zags Coach Mark Few used to describe Iowa after the game. Well, his guys have those things, too, and in abundance. But what 4-0 Gonzaga also had here was something that hadn’t been among its long list of strengths: Deadly 3-point shooting.

The Zags made 13 of 26 3s to Iowa’s 4-of-22, and that was the ballgame no matter how you look at the Zags’ rebounding dominance or all their easy hoops on cuts to the hoop that shredded Iowa’s defense.

Jalen Suggs, highly touted for good reason, had made two 3-pointers over Gonzaga’s first three games. He sank 7 of 10 3s Saturday in scoring a career-high 27 points.

The Zags returned to practice Wednesday after missing five scheduled games and the better part of two weeks of activities because of a COVID-19 issue in the program.

“I spent a lot of time in the gym by myself just late at night, getting shots up,” Suggs said. “Coming into this weekend I really felt my jump shot improved and I felt really comfortable with it.”

The Zags seemed to be 90-10 on what are now commonly called 50-50 balls. Loose balls. They also had 16 offensive rebounds, and out-boarded the Hawkeyes, 49-37. Junior forward Joel Ayayi had a career-high 18 rebounds.

“We were terrible on the defensive glass,” said Iowa’s Joe Wieskamp.

“The defensive end is where we need improvement. They were in transition too much. They were having it at will, really.

“We know we’ve got to be tougher, especially on the glass,” Iowa senior center Luka Garza said. “We’re a better rebounding team than we showed tonight and we will be in the future.”

Iowa was supposed to be the 3-point team in this game. It came in averaging 11.7 3s. per game to Gonzaga’s 5.3. The Hawkeyes, however, were 4 of 22 from that distance.

Jordan Bohannon was 0 for 5, and no Hawkeye who shot 3s made as much as half of them.

“I didn’t expect to shoot 4 of 22,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said, “and we’ve got really good shooters. I felt we moved it and took open shots.

“To their credit, they made their 3s. So we were behind a lot of the game.”

The final 34 minutes, to be precise. The Zags used an Iowa-like 13-0 run for a 38-24 lead, and were up 51-37 at halftime. They hadn’t made 10 3s in their previous 21 games, but had that many by the break.

That lead grew to 72-52 with 13:15 remaining. Iowa played its best ball after that without making a 3-pointer, as Garza got 12 of his 30 points and point guard Joe Toussaint had repeated drives to the basket in posting a season-high 14 points. Wieskamp had 20 points.

But Iowa never got closer than eight points, and that was in the last 30 seconds. Four of Suggs’ teammates scored between 11 and 15 points. Gonzaga shot 50 percent from the field, but was at 64.7 percent at the first media timeout of the second half.

Iowa has little time to lick its wounds. The Hawkeyes start Big Ten play at home Tuesday night against Purdue.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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