IOWA CITY — This will sound more than a little familiar.
The Iowa basketball team played pretty well offensively on Saturday but went through several prolonged defensive lapses and ended up giving up close to 100 points and losing.
But this time it didn’t happen against a big-name opponent such as Virginia or Notre Dame. This time the Hawkeyes lost to a team picked to finish fourth in the Summit League, and that sent waves of frustration, urgency and shock rippling through Fran McCaffery’s basketball program.
The Mavericks of Omaha — formerly known as Nebraska-Omaha — outshot, outrebounded and outhustled Iowa on its home floor Saturday afternoon on their way to a stunning 98-89 victory over the Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
It was Omaha’s first-ever victory in 12 games against Big Ten opposition and 12th-year coach Derrin Hansen admitted it had to rank pretty high in his program’s history.
“It’s in the top something,’’ he said. “We won at Marquette a couple of years ago and we won tonight. To do it on this floor, in this venue, it’s definitely in the top something.’’
But for the Hawkeyes, now 3-5, it had to rank in the bottom something, at least during Fran McCaffery’s seven years as head coach.
And McCaffery admitted that he’s growing frustrated with seeing his young team continue to give up tons of points and lose in the same way game after game. This was the Hawkeyes’ fourth straight loss and fifth in the past six games.
“I've had experience before with issues,’’ McCaffery said. “I've never had one with consistently the same problem and seemingly no effected change, and that's what's been frustrating because we haven't defended.
“We've played essentially 10 games if you count the scrimmage and the exhibition game. We haven't defended in any of them. We have outscored people in four or five of them, but we haven't really competed defensively like you're going to need to with the caliber of teams on your schedule.’’
McCaffery gave credit to the Mavericks (4-4), who shot 47.9 percent from the field and had a 47-39 rebounding advantage.
“But our defensive communication and coordination was really poor,’’ he added. “I don't know if I've ever coached a team that made 14 threes and lost by nine.’’
As with their other losses, the Hawkeyes had some monster offensive performances and had moments when it seemed they were on their way.
Peter Jok tossed in 33 points and the freshman duo of Jordan Bohannon and Cordell Pemsl continued to produce. Bohannon hit six 3-point field goals, giving him 13 in the past two games, and scored 20 points. Pemsl missed just one shot and scored 18 points for the second straight game.
And when Pemsl led a 14-3 scoring run in the first half to give Iowa a 34-27 lead, it looked as though everything was going to be just fine.
But the Mavericks, led by senior point guard Tra-Deon Hollins and sophomore Zach Jackson, scorched the Hawkeyes for the last few minutes of the half to open a 53-47 halftime cushion.
Iowa briefly reclaimed the lead early in the second half before it missed 12 straight shots, allowing the Mavericks to regain control. The Omaha lead got as high at 79-68 with 7 minutes, 32 seconds remaining before the Hawkeyes rallied to within 87-84 on two Jok free throws with 1:53 to go.
But Jackson, who led the Mavericks with 21 points, nailed a wide-open 3-pointer with 1:29 remaining, then added four free throws and Omaha escaped.
Senior forward Tre-Shawn Thurman netted 17 points and backup center Mitch Hahn added 15, 13 of those coming after halftime. Hollins contributed 12 points and 11 assists.
Other than the three big scorers, the Hawkeyes did very little offensively. Omaha had a huge 37-9 advantage in bench points.
But the glaring problem, as always, was defense.
“It seems to be the same every game,’’ Pemsl said. “We’re giving up easy layups. We’re giving up offensive rebounds. Teams are getting as many offensive rebounds as we’re getting defensively.
“I think it’s a mindset now at this point. We’ve all been playing basketball since we were 6 or 7 years old. Everyone knows how to play defense. It’s just a matter of whether we want to or not.’’
Jok, who was 12 for 12 at the foul line and also grabbed 10 rebounds to register his second career double-double, also was at a loss to explain why the Iowa defense seems to come and go.
“In practice, we’re really energized,’’ he said. “We play really good defense. But once the light goes on, I don’t know what it is … We need to get some things figured out.’’