NEW YORK, NY – One hour before tip-off at Madison Square Garden, Baylor's players knocked down shot after shot after shot. Iowa's players stood and looked at the backboard and orange rim.
The net on Iowa's basket had yet to arrive. Figuratively, it never did.
Iowa (25-13) lost its bid for an NIT championship last night the way it lost many of games this year. The Hawkeyes failed to knock down critical shots at the basket time and time again. In its 74-54 loss to Baylor (23-14), Iowa missed inside and outside, shooting just 26.1 percent for the game.
Leading scorer Devyn Marble was held to six points on 3-of-12 shooting. Second-leading scorer Aaron White scored 12 points, but he was 4-of-13 from the field.
While the Hawkeyes struggled offensively, the Bears sizzled. Baylor hit 54.2 percent, including 65.2 percent in the second half. The Bears outscored Iowa 36-18 in the paint and dunked 11 times. Baylor also showed how quickly it could respond to an Iowa run.
After Eric May hit back-to-back shots – including a 3-pointer – to bring Iowa within 28-27, Baylor scored eight points with lightning execution in 52 seconds. First, Cory Jefferson hit a jumper. After Iowa's Adam Woodbury missed a four-foot jumper, Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson drilled a 3-pointer to push the lead to 33-27.
Baylor's Isaiah Austin blocked Devyn Marble's attempt and the rim, and Jackson was fouled and sank two more free throws. Then when Iowa responded with two Aaron White free throws, Baylor's Cory Jefferson dunked on consecutive possessions to give the Bears a 10-point advantage. It got worse from there for Iowa, which couldn't stop Jackson or Baylor's inside presence.
Iowa stumbled defensively and fell behind 11-4 barely five minutes into the game. The Hawkeyes lacked flow on offense and struggled with the Bears' quickness.
Iowa regained its composure and chopped its deficit to 11-9 when Anthony Clemmons hit a 3-pointer and White threw up a hook shot with 11:09 left in the half. But each time the Hawkeyes tried to close, Baylor pulled away.
Josh Oglesby knocked down a 3-pointer to bring Iowa within 20-17 with 6:45 left. A.J. Walton retaliated with a jumper, followed by two free throws from Pierre Jackson boosted Baylor's lead to 24-17.
Iowa rallied with three straight free throws, but Jackson – the Big 12's scoring leader – threw up a circus shot off the glass to push the lead back to six.
Baylor dominated in the paint, outscoring Iowa 16-6 in the first half. Walton also harassed Iowa's guards and picked up five steals.
The 20-point loss was Iowa's second-worst this season.