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Pat Harty: McCaffery’s temper proves costly in loss

[ 0 ] January 5, 2014 |

MADISON, Wis. You should’ve known by now that it wouldn’t last, but I’m not just talking about Fran McCaffery controlling his temper.

You also should’ve known that at some point in the second half Ben Brust and the Wisconsin Badgers would catch fire from 3-point range.

And you probably should’ve known that Iowa wouldn’t have an answer for it.

The fourth-ranked Badgers made 10 3-point baskets, including 6-of-9 in the second half and overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to defeat No. 22 Iowa 75-71 Sunday at the Kohl Center.

The momentum already had shifted to Wisconsin’s side when McCaffery was called for two technical fouls with Iowa leading 41-40 with 11 minutes, 51 seconds left in the second half.

Wisconsin senior guard Ben Brust then made four consecutive free throws and freshman forward Nigel Hayes made another, forcing the Hawkeyes to spend the rest of the second half playing catch up, while McCaffery watched his team lose for just the third time this season from the locker room inside the Kohl Center.

McCaffery declined to talk about what led to him being ejected for the second time as the Iowa coach, but it came after Iowa junior center Gabe Olaseni was called for a defensive foul. McCaffery already was fuming by the time Olaseni was whistled for the foul because you could’ve argued that Olaseni was fouled on Iowa’s previous offensive possession.

And, boy, did McCaffery argue, at least on the court. The fear of being punished for criticizing the officials kept him from going off after the game.

“I can’t address that,” McCaffery said. “As much as I would like to, I can’t.”

McCaffery said he regretted getting the second technical, but was hardly apologetic, nor did he feel that his ejection cost Iowa (12-3) the game.

“What I feel bad about is getting the second one,” McCaffery said. “I think the first one, it’s safe to say I probably went after that one a little bit.”

McCaffery denied that he made contact with an official near mid-court. He also doesn’t think he will be disciplined by the Big Ten Conference.

“I got two (technical fouls), why would I be disciplined?” McCaffery asked.

Reporters kept trying to get McCaffery to comment on the incident, but he kept resisting.

“I would love to go there with you and kind of explain to you my perspective, but it’s not allowed by rules,” McCaffery said. “I know that’s what you guys want to talk about.”

McCaffery huddled with players and  tried to motivate them before leaving the court, but instead it was the undefeated Badgers (15-0) who fed off the heat of the moment.

“I think at that point we were not the same as we were in the first half, I think that’s safe to say at the start of the second half,” McCaffery said. “And you could talk about any number of reasons why that was the case. The momentum was shifting clearly for a variety of reasons and some of which was under our control and some of it was not.”

The temperature outside of the Kohl Center probably was the only thing colder than Wisconsin’s shooting in the first half. The Badgers missed 12 of their first 13 shots from the field and made only 8-of-30 field-goal attempts in the first 20-minute session.

Brust and sophomore forward Sam Dekker shot a combined 0-for-9 in the first half, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range. Brust missed all three of his shots from 3-point range in the first half and was held scoreless.

However, the former Iowa recruit came out firing in the second half and made his first 3-point basket with 19:33 left to play. Brust made another trey with 15:57 left to play as the momentum continued to slip from Iowa’s grasp.

“With a guy like him, it doesn’t take much to get him going,” McCaffery said of Brust, who scored 19 points in the second half.

You could easily blame McCaffery for handing Wisconsin the momentum and eventually the lead with his latest outburst, but there was more to this loss than that.

Iowa’s inability to make 3-point shots — Wisconsin outscored the Hawkeyes 30-12 from 3-point range — and free throws could prevent this Hawkeye squad from being special. Iowa has depth. It has versatility. And it has enough athleticism to compete in the Big Ten.

It just doesn’t have enough quality shooters to win close games against elite opponents. Iowa was 0-7 against ranked opponents last season, with poor shooting largely to blame for it.

Senior guard Devyn Marble made all four of Iowa’s 3-point baskets Sunday and finished with a game-high 27 points. Sophomore guard Mike Gesell and senior forward Zach McCabe were the only other players for Iowa to attempt a 3-point shot, but they combined to miss all five of them. Junior guard Josh Oglesby didn’t attempt a 3-point shot while playing 11 minutes off the bench and freshman shooting guard Peter Jok didn’t see any game action.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, had five players who made at least one 3-point basket Sunday. Half of the shots that Wisconsin made Sunday were 3-pointers.

Marble tried to downplay the significance of 3-point shooting after Sunday’s game, but that’s to be expected.

“We don’t have to make a lot of 3s to win games or even be close, as you saw tonight,” Marble said. “It’s not like we missed a lot of 3s. We didn’t take a lot.”

The Iowa players to no surprise also downplayed the significance of McCaffery’s ejection. Gesell went as far as to say that it helped Iowa.

“I don’t know exactly how if affected us,” Gesell said. “I trust in everything Fran does. I know he had a reason for what he did. So I don’t know how if affected us. It kind of gave us some energy. We got excited after that. It brought us together. We just weren’t able to pull out the win.”

McCaffery’s passion is one of his greatest strengths as a coach, but sometimes it becomes his weakness. That was the case Sunday and two years ago when McCaffery was tossed during an 80-60 loss at Northern Iowa.

Somewhat lost with the eruption of Mount McCaffery was Jarrod Uthoff’s return to Wisconsin, where he was redshirted as a freshman two years ago before transferring to Iowa. Uthoff scored six points and was booed whenever he touched the ball.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Uthoff said.

We should have known what to expect from Wisconsin in the second half. The better team didn’t necessarily prevail Sunday. The team that shot better from 3-point range did.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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