There wasn’t much red Thursday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena except for Nebraska’s uniforms and the color of Fran McCaffery’s face after getting upset with his team late in the second half.
McCaffery watched helplessly from the bench as Iowa blew an opportunity to pull to .500 in the Big Ten by losing to Nebraska 79-73 before an announced crowd of 10,538 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Senior guard Brandon Richardson only missed one of his 10 field-goal attempts and he led the Cornhuskers with a career-high 25 points. He made 6-of-7 shots from 3-point range, including all four of his attempts in the second half.
Richardson entered Thursday’s game having made just 12-of-40 3-points attempts for the season, including 3-of-14 in Big Ten play.
Nebraska entered the game averaging just 52.4 points against Big Ten competition, but it was hard to tell in the second half as the Cornhuskers erupted for 48 points.
“I think it was fairly typical of the problem we’ve been experiencing all year,” McCaffery said. “We couldn’t get a stop when we needed it.
“It was disappointing because that’s about as bad defensively as you can play.”
McCaffery, his face red with anger, ripped into his players during two timeouts late in the second half after the Cornhuskers had shredded Iowa’s defense to seize the momentum.
“He was not happy with the way we were playing defense,” said sophomore forward Zach McCabe, who scored 20 points forthe second game in a row. “I don’t blame him. We didn’t play well.”
Richardson repeatedly got open against Iowa’s defense, both man-to-man and zone, and he usually made the Hawkeyes pay for it.
His fifth trey of the game narrowed Iowa’s lead to 61-59 with 6 minutes, 8 seconds left to play. It also triggered a 23-12 scoring run that Nebraska used to close out its first game against Iowa since 1976 and its first Big Ten game against the Hawkeyes.
“He kept us in the game tonight offensively,” Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said of Richardson. “He was open and that’s one thing Brandon does, he takes good shots.”
Richardson credited his teammates for getting him open looks and his coach for encouraging him to shoot more.
“Coach told me to be more aggressive and look for your shot,” Richardson said. “I’m being selfish if I don’t take the open shots.
“So that’s what I did, and my teammates put the ball in my hands to shoot the ball.”
Iowa will bring records of 11-10 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten into Sunday’s game at Indiana while Nebraska improved to 11-9 and 3-6 in the conference.
Iowa built an 11-point lead at 31-20 in the first half, but the Cornhuskers responded with an 8-0 scoring run to temporarily shift the momentum.
Iowa senior guard Gatens then broke free for a lay-up and was awarded a basket on a goal-tending call, expanding the lead to 33-28 with 2:31 remaining in the first half.
Richardson made his second 3-point basket of the first half, narrowing the gap to 33-31 with 2:12 left before halftime.
Iowa freshman forward Aaron White then grabbed an offensive rebound and made a basket with 1 minute remaining in the first half to give Iowa a 38-31 lead at halftime.
Nebraska scored seven consecutive points to begin the second half and tied the score at 38-38 on a basket by senior guard Bo Spencer with 16:58 remaining.
“We had a couple looks at it and it didn’t go and the next thing you know it’s tied and you know it’s going to be a different kind of game than it would have been,” McCaffery said.
McCabe was among four Iowa players to score in double figures Thursday. He also had six rebounds, two steals, one assist and one block before fouling out with 1:58 left to play.
Sophomore guard Devyn Marble scored 15 points, marking the fourth consecutive game that he has scored in double figures. He also made 9-of-10 free throws. Gatens finished with 12 points, but he was just 2-of-8 from 3-point range. White finished with 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
On the other hand, sophomore forward Melsahn Basabe continued to struggle. on both ends of the floor. He had one point and one rebound while playing just 13 minutes. Basabe has scored two or fewer points in four of the last six games.
McCaffery didn’t mince words when asked about Basabe’s performance afterwards.
“No effort from him tonight,” McCaffery said. “He’s got to figure it out. He’s got to decide where this is going.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball