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Commentary: The Hawkeyes' loss won't become a habit

BY SETH ROBERTS | NOVEMBER 15, 2010 7:20 AM

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While it may be difficult to believe, the times, they are a-changin'.

Yes, the Iowa men's basketball team dropped its second-consecutive season-opener on Sunday. Yeah, the Hawkeyes lost by 10 points to a team with a bunny for a mascot. Sure, the team had 18 turnovers and only 10 assists.

But change takes time, especially when you're trying to do something completely different than what has been done previously.

In other words, don't read too much into Iowa's 79-69 loss to South Dakota State on Sunday.

The Hawkeyes are young, inexperienced, and playing without shooting guard Matt Gatens, who is arguably the best player to wear an Iowa uniform since Adam Haluska. All of these problems will be fixed in time.

Time will also play a role in remedying Iowa's biggest issue. As head coach Fran McCaffery said after Sunday's game, everything — from the vocabulary to the players' mindsets — is new.

The most obvious difference is the offensive strategy. Last year, Iowa plodded up the court with no urgency or real purpose. This year, the Hawkeyes run — and when they're done running, they run some more.

It's a 180-degree shift in style, and it hasn't necessarily been a smooth transition. McCaffery subscribes to the John Wooden mantra of "be quick but never hurry," but it was clear that the ideology hasn't sunk in with everyone yet.

As such, the Jackrabbits netted 15 points off turnovers and posted a 13-2 advantage in fast-break points.

But it's OK, because radical change happens gradually.

Take the world of politics, for example. President Obama promised change, and he has delivered on some counts. He put other policies on the backburner to be addressed later, though, because it isn't reasonable to expect anyone — whether he's president of the United States or just Iowa's basketball coach — to solve a problem by snapping his fingers. The world doesn't work that way.

Change is coming, and the Hawkeyes will be a completely different team once they have time to iron out the wrinkles.

Cully Payne won't always commit four turnovers or be held to two points. The point guard won't always make decisions that will have McCaffery jumping out of his seat and screaming.

Melsahn Basabe looked more lost than Christopher Columbus, but the freshman phenom isn't going to have four-point, four-turnover nights very often. The kid had 19 points in 23 minutes against Illinois-Springfield last week. He obviously has potential.

Finally, the defense won't always allow opponents to shoot 48 percent from 3-point range and 43 percent overall.

Iowa is a young team, and the 11,700 fans in Carver-Hawkeye Arena Sunday afternoon witnessed a loss built on inexperience. Stick around for the rest of the season, and the missed shots and sloppy turnovers will start to disappear.

Yes, the loss was ugly. Yes, it was a game (and opponent) the Hawkeyes should have dominated.

But the season ain't over till it's over.


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