In a fitting end to a frustrating season, Iowa lost yet another close game to a good team, this time to Tennessee in overtime.
This one was a microcosm of the season, as the Hawkeyes started off great before things fell apart down the stretch. Iowa pushed the lead to double digits multiple times in the first half, thanks largely to some ice cold shooting by the Volunteers, who went 1-for-10 from three before the break. Unfortunately, the Hawkeyes didn’t shoot all that much better, so a late Tennessee run cut the halftime deficit to a mere three points.
After intermission, Iowa mostly kept the Volunteers at arm’s length. It was a team effort for the Hawkeyes, as Roy Devyn Marble struggled to make an impact. Adam Woodbury took advantage of Tennessee’s shorter frontline on his way to a career-high 16 points, and it appeared as though Iowa might advance.
Down the stretch, the Hawkeyes’ defense failed them, as the Volunteers used steady trips to foul line, along with an Antonio Barton three, to take their first lead of the game with just over three minutes remaining. Iowa would respond – in literally eight seconds, Marble retook the lead with a old-fashioned three-point play – but Tennessee made enough plays over the final three minutes to force overtime. To make matters worse, Marble went down awkwardly on the final defensive stand of regulation, and he was not on the court to start the extra period.
At that point, things got ugly. The Hawkeyes couldn’t make anything in overtime and were outscored 14-1, largely thanks to some unreal free throw accuracy by the Volunteers. It was a rough way for the season to end, and it was emblematic of the missed opportunities that plagued Iowa’s once-promising season.
It’s not clear where the Hawkeyes go from here. This was supposed to be a banner year, one in which simply making the NCAA tournament wasn’t enough. Iowa returned much of the team that finished last season ranked 25th in KenPom, and this year’s edition will actually finish slightly worse (the Hawkeyes are currently 31st).
The program will move now forward without Marble, Melsahn Basabe, and Zach McCabe, a trio that played 31 percent of the team’s minutes. Typically, losing that much of your rotation predicts a drop in quality, unless offset by a large number of freshman-to-sophomore minutes or a great recruiting class. Iowa has neither of those things, so it’s reasonable to expect the team to be a little worse in 2014-15.
This was supposed to be the year for the Hawkeyes, and it just wasn’t.