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NCAA Basketball Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa Falls to Wisconsin, Continue Inconsistent Play

Iowa Basketball, Roy Devyn Marble

Rick Strickland-USA Today Sports

Taking the court for the first time in a week, the Iowa Hawkeyes got off to a slow start in Saturday’s matchup with rival Wisconsin. Down 40-31 at halftime, Iowa rallied back behind Josh Oglesby’s sharp shooting and even claimed a 62-58 lead at one point in the second half. However, Roy Devyn Marble’s first double-double of the season (21 points, 11 assists) wasn’t enough to hold off the Badgers, who eventually closed the lid on the Hawkeyes 79-74 with a handful of clutch, last-minute free throws. Iowa, ranked third in the country in rebounding, was out-rebounded 35-to-33, and shot only 28 percent from behind the three-point arc.

Now 19-7 overall, Iowa falls to fourth in the Big Ten. All seven of the team’s losses were by less than 10 points, and all come from teams within the RPI top 20. Although Iowa has assembled an impressive NCAA tournament resume this season with wins over MichiganOhio State and Xavier, the Hawkeyes continue to come up short in their biggest games of 2013-14.

With tremendous depth at all positions, Iowa plays 11-deep, and has nine players averaging more than 16 minutes per game. The Hawkeyes get consistently great play from star, senior guard Marble, and feature several role players capable of stepping up offensively on any given night. Able to attack the basket and score in a number of different ways through great off-ball movement, Iowa ranks seventh in the country in points per game, and leads the Big Ten in free throws attempted per game. Sophomore point guard Mike Gessell aggressively pushes each game’s tempo, yet finds a way to take care of the ball while forcing the issue. His 3.23 assist to turnover ratio ranks second in the Big Ten.

Outside of a mediocre 72 percent team free-throw percentage, everything about the Hawkeyes looks great on paper. Iowa passes the eye test as well, and is fully capable of beating any team in the country, but just can’t seem to put everything together at once. At one time labeled a Final Four sleeper, Iowa is becoming more easily recognized for blowing second-half leads and failing to finish off opponents. The Hawkeyes resemble a team capable of making a deep run in the 2014 NCAA tournament, but need to get all their moving parts in the right spots for that dream to be realized. Iowa will look to bounce back with five games remaining in Big Ten play, including an important matchup at Michigan State on March 6.

Taylor Henrichs is a contributor for the Minnesota Twins for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @taylor_henrichs, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.