THE MONDAY TIPOFF: Hawkeyes’ Inability To Close Out Games Leads To Current Struggles

By John Bohnenkamp

Luka Garza looked at the big picture and the small picture after Iowa’s 67-65 loss at Indiana on Sunday.

It was the Hawkeyes’ fourth loss in the last five games, and Garza was willing to shoulder the blame after he missed a shot with 41 seconds and the Hawkeyes down 63-62.

But Garza also knows that Iowa’s current slide has come down to more than one play late in the game. Much of the skid can be attributed to stretches in the second half when the Hawkeyes have lost the lead in situations where they could have taken control of the game.

Iowa led 45-35 with 14:30 left in the second half of Sunday’s game before Indiana went on a 20-8 run. It’s part of a trend during this recent stretch.

• Iowa led 53-44 with 12 minutes to play in an 81-69 loss to Indiana on January 21. The Hoosiers went on a 23-3 run after that.

• The Hawkeyes had a 57-49 lead with 15:47 to play in last Tuesday’s game against Michigan State. The Spartans answered with a 12-2 run, but Iowa was able to get an 84-78 win.

• Iowa led Ohio State, 61-50, with 14:29 to play in Thursday’s game against Ohio State. But the Buckeyes went on a 17-5 run on the way to an 89-85 win.

It’s that inability to hold leads that bothered Garza.

“I think we have a potential of closing out these games better,” Garza said.

He talked about the Hoosiers had been able to rally in Sunday’s game.

“I think the five minutes before that, from the 10 to the 5, that’s the key time where we’ve got to be better,” Garza said. “That has happened in a couple of games. That stretch right after that is key. You can’t lose that. You’ve got to either win it, or keep it where it is. And we obviously lost the lead.”

A breakdown of the last five games showed the Hawkeyes’ offense struggled in stretches from the 14-minute mark to the 7-minute mark. Opponents shot 28-of-55 (50.9 percent) during that period in the five games, while the Hawkeyes shot 20-of-55 (36.3 percent).

In the first loss to Indiana, the Hoosiers were 6-of-10 shooting in the 14:00-7:00 stretch, while Iowa was 2-of-13. The Hawkeyes also committed three turnovers in that time, with the Hoosiers scoring five points off them.

Ohio State was 8-of-13 shooting (61.5 percent) in that same stretch of time, while Iowa was 5-of-14 (35.7).

Iowa has struggled with its overall shooting in the second half as well. The Hawkeyes have shot 46.5 percent in the first halves of the last five games, while just 38.4 percent in the second half. In 3-point shooting, the Hawkeyes have shot 42.6 percent in the first half, 28 percent in the second half.

Opponents have shot 43.9 percent overall in the second half, 44.2 percent in 3-pointers.

The Hawkeyes have eight games left in the regular season, plus the Big Ten tournament, before getting to the NCAA Tournament. It’s a stretch that Garza said will define the season.

“When you’re losing four out of five, and in each one you had a lead, that just sucks,” Garza said. “It’s unfortunate. Right here, it’s down the stretch. These eight games, that’s the last stretch. I think what we do now is going to show the character of this team. And hopefully we’ll be able to put some wins together and get on a roll toward the Big Ten tournament, and March.”

LEATHERNECKS ON A WINNING STREAK

Western Illinois’ men’s basketball team has won three consecutive games after sweeping last weekend’s two-game series at Omaha.

It’s the longest winning streak for the program since a four-game streak to open the 2017-18 season. It’s the longest winning streak in Summit League play since the 2012-13 season.

The streak is another step in the building process in the first season under new coach Rob Jeter, something he pointed out after Saturday’s 75-73 win.

“We couldn’t have won this game two, three weeks ago,” Jeter said. “It’s a process for us. We’re figuring out how to win. Yesterday (an 85-77 win on Friday), we were ahead the entire game. Today, we lost the lead and got it back.

“We talk about toughness, discipline, and defense. The ball won’t go in sometimes, and we have to put all three together, all the way to the end. That’s how you finish games.”

Western Illinois, 5-12 overall and 3-7 in the Summit League, is in seventh place in the conference. The top eight teams make the conference tournament, and the Leathernecks have a chance to solidify their spot this weekend, with home games against Denver (2-13, 1-7) on Friday and Saturday.

SUPER BOWL CONFLICT

Western Illinois’ women’s basketball team played a 4 p.m. game on Sunday at Omaha.

Which meant the Leathernecks were going to be finishing the game right around the time the Super Bowl started. That presented a problem for Western Illinois coach JD Gravina, a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs.

So, Gravina wore the jersey of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during Sunday’s game.

Western Illinois won, 89-66.

Photo: Iowa’s Luka Garza faces the Ohio State defense in last Thursday’s loss. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

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