The Hawkeyes out-rebounded and out-hustled a clearly overmatched Brown Bears team in a relatively easy 75-54 win. The bounce back victory was much needed after an ugly loss to Clemson on Tuesday night and a 1-3 record in their last four games heading into today, but the Hawkeyes were far from spectacular on the offensive end and still have plenty of work to do if they want to compete on the road against their in-state foes next week, let alone in the Big 10 conference.
The Hawkeyes owned the rebounding battle, 49-35, included 18 on the offensive glass. This effort was due in large part to the efforts of a seemingly rejuvenated Melsahn Basabe, who didn’t let his continued offensive struggles reflect his intensity on the glass in grabbing 10 boards, as well as Zach McCabe, Roy Devyn Marble, and Andrew Brommer. This allowed them a multitude of second-chance opportunities and short put-backs, which was good considering the jump shooting is still carrying an abysmal stink from Tuesday night.
I understand the University of Iowa maintenance staff is searching for the source of a mysteriously rank smell emanating at times from the basketball court at Carver — after shooting 2-10 from three point range today, I think it’s safe to say the smell is the Hawkeyes’ shooting woes. Despite the new practice facility allegedly offering plenty of extra time to hoist jumpers, the team is apparently showing no benefit from it. Aaron White shot 3-10, Oglesby (who I was clamoring for to start earlier this week) 1-5, Bryce Cartwright 2-7, and Matt Gatens 3-8.
Basabe fought for 14 points to lead the team in scoring, yet shot only 5-12 from the field, struggling with any shot outside 2-5 feet. However, it was still nice to see him continue to scrap and play hard for his points. Despite the lack of beauty in his offensive repertoire at the moment, he doesn’t appear to be losing confidence in himself and still finished with a well-earned double-double, so if he keeps pushing then he is bound to break through at some point. Marble provided 11 first-half points with a whirling dervish of one-foot runners and unbalanced jumpers around the hoop, but failed to score in the second half and continues to have a difficult time with his outside jumper. Brommer also made strides in looking like the player the Hawkeyes need him to be if they want to hang tough with the Big Ten’s post players, battling for nine hustle points in the paint and blocking two shots. Finally, McCabe took advantage of his third straight start with nine points, seven rebounds, and an important three at the game’s onset to set the tone.
The bottom line is that despite how badly Fran McCaffery wants to run a high-octane, fast break offense, it’s not going to happen if the team can’t make shots. The only way Iowa will have an edge in the physical Big 10 conference is if they can maximize the number of scoring chances they have and force a large number of turnovers with their trapping press, which is nearly impossible to initiate with Matt Gatens deferring to his teammates, Oglesby stifled, and Bryce Cartwright clanking mid-range jumpers off the rim. Iowa just doesn’t have the talent to beat other conference teams straight up — they need an ace in the hole, and that’s their up-tempo pace. The Hawkeyes may have won comfortably today, but they still only shot 40 percent as a team and relied on hustle buckets around the basket for a majority of their points. Those points won’t be so readily available against teams not named Brown — the Ivy League Bears looked like a private high school team with their beards, lack of size, shaggy haircuts, reliance on the three point shot (they took 22 but only made 4), and relative lack of melanin. So it is with reserved contentment that Hawkeye fans should celebrate the win today, as Iowa will have to shoot better to compete against higher caliber teams in their own conference. Matt Gatens isn’t going to be seeing too many open lay-ups against Ohio State, or getting to the free throw line so easily.
Next up for the Hawkeyes are the Northern Iowa Panthers on Tuesday night in Cedar Falls, which will kick-off a slate of three straight battles against in-state foes (Iowa State in Ames, Drake in Iowa City). The Hawkeyes haven’t beaten UNI at their arena since 2007, so it will be a difficult challenge, but it will all come down to making shots and forcing UNI out of their half-court game into a frenetic, lightning-paced contest to favor the tempo McCaffery wants to orchestrate and Cartwright feels comfortable running at. That all starts with making some shots, preferably from outside the three point line.