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Iowa couldn’t make shots when Auburn wasn’t making shots.

The Hawkeyes couldn’t make enough shots when the Tigers finally started making theirs.

And a season that never could find a rhythm was over.

Iowa’s 83-75 loss to Auburn in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday night in Birmingham, Ala., was the completion to a strange year for the Hawkeyes, who mixed in big wins with puzzling losses, including the last three defeats that will hang with them during the offseason.

The Hawkeyes (19-14), the No. 8 seed in the Midwest Regional, put together a furious run after being down 17 points midway through the second half. But the ninth-seeded Tigers (21-12), who have had their share of blown leads this season, were able to fight off Iowa in the closing minutes.

Payton Sandfort led Iowa with 21 points, 17 in the second half as part of the Hawkeyes’ comeback. Kris Murray had 15 points and Filip Rebraca added 14.

The takeaways from the game:


Iowa was the higher seed, but Auburn felt like the home team playing just two hours away from its campus.

That was no excuse, the Hawkeyes said after the game.

“Playing in the Big Ten, we’re used to playing on the road, playing in hostile environments,” said guard Connor McCaffery, who ended his career with a nine-point, eight-rebound game. “If we had our choice, we would have preferred it to be a little more neutral, but that’s not why we lost at all.”

“You play all year to get to the tournament,” Sandfort said. “And you don’t have any control over that. You just have to play the game you can. Unfortunately, we didn’t play up to our capabilities.”

“We just want to get in the tournament,” coach Fran McCaffery said. “We want to be one of the teams in it. And I think once that happens, you have to have the mindset of playing anyone, anywhere.”


Auburn’s defense worked to limit Murray as much as possible, and it worked.

The junior forward was just 5-of-18 from the field, 3-of-11 in 3-pointers.

Murray was better in the second half after a 1-of-7 shooting performance in the first half, which also helped in the Hawkeyes’ rally. But he didn’t have a point in the final 5:03.


The Hawkeyes were 7-of-27 in 3-pointers, which sounds bad enough.

But they were 0-of-9 in the first half, and magnifying that number was the fact that Auburn was 1-of-9 and only led 31-26 at halftime. Even a couple of makes would have made this a different game going into the break.

Sandfort and Murray were a combined 6-of-21 from behind the arc. Tony Perkins and Ahron Ulis were 5-of-17 from the field, 0-of-3 in 3-pointers.


Connor McCaffery cried as he left the court after fouling out in the final seconds, but there is no question the impact he left on the program during his career with the Hawkeyes.

He was consistently one of the nation’s best when it came to assist-to-turnover ratio, and especially in the last couple of seasons was a steadying influence on and off the court.

The Hawkeyes will need new leadership next season with the expected roster turnover that’s coming. That’s when McCaffery’s absence will become clear.


No one was as consistent for the Hawkeyes as senior forward Filip Rebraca this season, and he went out that way in his final game.

Rebraca was 5-of-9 from the field, and added seven rebounds. He averaged 14.1 points and 7.5 rebounds this season, and now as the offseason begins Fran McCaffery will have to look somewhere to replace that production, and consistency.