This could be another long winter for Hawkeye hoops. It was Bryce Cartwright bobblehead night, students got into Carver for free, and hot dogs were only a dollar, but Iowa’s starters shot a combined 8-33 from the field in looking like one of the worst major conference basketball teams in the country for the third year in a row. After losing to the Tigers tonight, Iowa fell to 4-3 on the season and seemed mentally overwhelmed by their struggles. For a program that has battled poor attendance since the final underachieving Alford years, this was a chance to show students that it’s worth investing their dollars in season tickets. Unfortunately, many of the fans probably took their soft serve ice cream and ran because this one was not worth sticking around for. Announced attendance did not even match the Campbell game. The “student section placement and bevy of geriatrics in the plush seats” rant will be saved for another time.
As for the game, Clemson turned the ball over 19 times and looked far from spectacular, but that was enough to smother an inept Iowa offense that appeared to be performing a tribute to the brutal memories of the Todd Lickliter-era. The team shot only 29 percent from the field and that was due to a notable performance from Josh Oglesby off the bench, who hit a trio of three pointers (Iowa’s only downtown makes of the night) and scored 15 points. Fran hinted that Oglesby could crack the starting lineup for Saturday’s game against Brown and he deserves it, having been Iowa’s most consistent offensive weapon during this difficult stretch.
Zach McCabe also put forth a modest yet workmanlike seven points and seven rebounds, providing production his front court mates seemed to lack, while Roy Devyn Marble was a couple of roll-outs away from having a potentially explosive game. Aaron White contributed an energetic dunk that may have been Iowa’s lone highlight but nothing else. Meanwhile, Matt Gatens continues to prove while he’ll never go down as a Hawkeye great despite the statistical achievements and four consecutive years of starts. He missed a crucial front end of a one-and-one in the first half and air-balled a six-foot shot in the second, disappearing for stretches while continuing his streak of seeing his lay-ups blocked at the rim. He should be commended for honoring his commitment to the program, and all of the negativity surrounding the losing team for the past couple of years may have had an effect on his development as a player, but for a senior leader counted on for production, making only one field goal isn’t going to cut it. Good players don’t fade away in games like this when their team needs a scoring punch, and unfortunately Gatens isn’t athletic enough to dictate what he wants to do on the court.
Basabe was once again a non-factor with two points and failed to make any sort of offensive or defensive impact on the game, allowing Clemson’s forwards to grab rebounds (Devin Booker had 12, Basabe had one) and demand deep position at will. He was obviously pressing at the start and had some difficult misses, including an open 12-footer that just popped out, but Iowa isn’t going to win any games if it’s best post scorer is rendered so ineffective in all areas. Fran benched him for much of the second half due largely to his lack of effort on the defensive glass; Iowa was out-rebounded 41-23. Andrew Brommer looked a step behind the other players and Devon Archie hardly played before he was back on the bench icing his wrist, so Basabe did face a load of pressure without much support in the paint. If Eric May hadn’t clanked a trifecta of wide-open threes, one wouldn’t even know he suited up tonight. Fran hinted a trip to the bench may be needed to take some self-imposed pressure off his game. And Cartwright shot an abysmal 2-11 from the field in an obviously frustrating game for him. He will have better days; at least he wasn’t playing scared or disappearing. The Hawkeyes continue to have issues with defense, allowing Clemson to make 11 threes at a 51 percent clip, including five from guard Andre Young.
For now, Fran’s crew can look forward to a likely rebound against Brown this weekend, but what else? Fan enthusiasm for the program was steadily buzzing for the season as Fran inked a top-20 recruiting class for 2012 and the Hawkeyes surged to a 3-0 start. But much of that excitement has dissipated and been stored until next year when the calvary comes, as the same problems (apparent lack of talent, can’t defend the three, nothing in the post) have reared their ugly heads in a “back-to-earth” 1-3 record since the hot start against the cupcake trio. Clemson is a middling ACC team that played sloppy and fouled often tonight, yet Iowa couldn’t even keep it close in their own house. How are they going to perform on the road next week against their in-state foes, let alone when they play Ohio State, who demolished fourth-ranked Duke tonight by 22 points? Fran was refreshingly composed and positive in his post-game press conference, but positive energy isn’t going to bring next year’s recruiting class in next week. Currently, starting Oglesby and finding a way to reach Basabe would be a great start toward getting back on track in 2011.