WASHINGTON D.C. — No Big Ten team was hotter over the past couple of weeks than Iowa.
But it seems nothing can cool off the Hawkeyes quicker than the Big Ten Tournament.
They came up cold again Thursday and watched their already tenuous NCAA hopes slip slide away in the final 15 minutes of an embarrassingly lopsided 95-73 loss to 10th-seeded Indiana in their opening game of the conference tournament at the Verizon Center.
It marks the fourth consecutive year in which Iowa has been one-and-done in the tournament and head coach Fran McCaffery struggled to explain why his team, which had been playing its best basketball of the season, fell apart in the second half.
“You see this typically on the road,’’ McCaffery said. “Team makes a run, and you start quick-shooting the ball. They get some transition baskets. They get some and-ones.
"This wasn't a road game, but it sort of had that feel. We let it get away from us because of our poor shot selection. And we were not connected defensively the way you need to be to play Indiana.’’
The Hoosiers (18-14) now advance to play No. 2 seed Wisconsin today at 5:30 p.m. while seventh-seeded Iowa can only sit and wait on Selection Sunday for a call that almost certainly will not come. The Hawkeyes (also 18-14) most likely will receive an invitation to play in the NIT.
Iowa entered the game with a four-game winning streak and was considered to be on the cusp of possibly earning an NCAA at-large berth if it could win one or two games this week.
And the Hawkeyes actually had a lead in the second half against the Hoosiers, who they defeated at home 96-90 little more than two weeks ago.
Then a series of defensive lapses, a little bit of panic and a 3-point barrage led by James Blackmon and Josh Newkirk turned a close game into a rout in a matter of minutes.
The Hawkeyes were still hanging close on the short end of a 55-52 score when Blackmon drained a pair of threes in a 12-0 scoring run to help the Hoosiers take control. It was the start of a spree in which Indiana outscored Iowa 40-12 to open a 95-64 advantage.
“They made a run and we weren't able to capitalize and execute what we wanted to on offense,’’ Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon said. “I thought we were pretty locked in when they made their first run the first half. We responded pretty well and ended the half the way we wanted to. They made that run in the second half and we weren't able to execute our stuff.’’
It’s the most points ever allowed by the Hawkeyes in a Big Ten Tournament game and just two short of the tourney record of 97 scored by Maryland in a quarterfinal game against Nebraska last season.
Indiana coach Tom Crean was just pleased by the toughness his team showed, especially at the defensive end of the court.
“Toughness is a talent, just like hustle is,’’ Crean said. “I've always believed that. It comes from being ready. It comes from being alert. We knew we were playing a very tough team. I think that's the bottom line. But I was proud of their effort. They had a contagious energy on the defensive end with one another that led to even better offense for us.’’
Blackmon scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half and the Hoosiers also got 15 from DeRon Davis, who made all seven of his shots from the field.
Bohannon was brilliant in defeat, hitting six 3-point field goals, matching his career high with 24 points and setting a new career high with 10 assists. Cordell Pemsl added 14 points and a career-best 11 rebounds, but the two freshmen got very little help from anyone else.
Senior Peter Jok, named first-team All-Big Ten earlier in the week, made just 1 of 6 3-point attempts and finished with nine points and four turnovers. After making a school-record 22 free throws in an earlier win over Indiana, he did not go to the foul line a single time.
Bettendorf’s Nicholas Baer, who had scored 34 points in the two previous games and was named the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year this week, got his only points with about two minutes to go.
“Nicholas had a very uncharacteristic game for him,’’MCaffery said. “I don't remember him having a game like this in two years. He's always really locked in. If he's not making threes, he's usually very effective. He was a little bit sideways tonight for some reason.
“Pete, you know they're going to guard him a certain way. He had a couple looks that normally would go in. They didn't go in. We were going to him. It's just unfortunate.’’
The Hoosiers opened a 10-point lead in the first half, primarily by holding Iowa scoreless for more than five minutes, but the Hawkeyes trimmed it to 43-40 at halftime, then grabbed the lead at the outset of the second half on back-to-back transition baskets by Isaiah Moss and Tyler Cook.
Their last lead was 48-47. They then scored just 14 points over the next 14 minutes as the Hoosiers pulled away.
Indiana shot 60.3 percent from the field in the game and 60 percent (12 for 20) from 3-point range.
“I thought they were playing really relaxed,’’ McCaffery said. “A lot of different people were making threes. You’ve got to give them credit ... They executed. They moved the ball. They took good shots. But obviously from our perspective, our defense was not nearly what it needed to be to compete with a team that has that many weapons.’’