DAYTON, Ohio — The longest day for Iowa coach Fran McCaffery ended with a loss and the end to a once promising season.
Better news, McCaffery hopes, is yet to come.
Iowa led until the final few minutes of regulation, then went cold in what became a 78-65 loss to Tennessee in the First Four Wednesday night. McCaffery arrived back in Dayton a few hours before the game after returning to Iowa City Tuesday night before his 13-year-old son, Patrick, had surgery to remove a thyroid tumor.
McCafery’s return to Ohio for the game came after Iowa released a statement saying the surgery had gone as planned and further details on Patrick’s condition and outlook will come after more tests in the coming days.
"Words cannot express how genuinely thankful we are to everyone who has offered their thoughts and prayers," the statement said. "The outpouring of support and encouragement Patrick and our family have received this past week has been overwhelming."
According to the statement, Patrick McCaffery "was in good spirits" after the operation and the family thanked all doctors and nurses involved.
An exhausting time ended with Iowa’s season ending thanks to Tennessee’s late surge. Iowa led for the game’s first 37 minutes, then managed just one point in overtime.
In a TV interview after the game, McCaffery called Wednesday "a day almost impossible to describe."
Iowa made he NCAA tournament for the first time under McCaffery in his fourth year on the job. The Hawkeyes cracked the top 10 of the national rankings in January but finished the season losing seven of eight. The Hawkeyes finish at 20-13.
"We are all like family," Iowa guard Roy Devyn Marble said . "Pat is basically at practice with us every day. They’re all in our prayers. I know Coach is in a tough spot, so we’re just trying to make this as simple and easy for him as possible."
Marble’s leaner in the lane tied the game in the final 20 seconds of regulation, but atfer getting a stop to force overtime, Tennessee and Jarnell Stokes (18 points, 13 rebounds) took over. Marble struggled throughout the game until hitting what was the game’s biggest shot at the time; he went 3-of-15 from the field and Ohio native Aaron White went 1-of-5.
McCaffery said after the game that he appreciated the kind words and support he’d received from Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin and Vols players.
"First and foremost, I said a prayer for Coach McCaferry," Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin said in the postgame press conference.
The Vols, winners of six of their last seven, advance to play No. 6 seed UMass on Friday.