Hawkeye 3s not in the cards against Gophers


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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Good advice. But sometimes, even the best advice needs to be ignored.

The Iowa men’s basketball team didn’t get the memo on Sunday against Minnesota. The Hawkeyes hoisted a season-high 28 3-point shots, making just six of them — or 21.4 percent,the fourth-worst mark of the year.

Even worse, treys accounted for well more than half of the team’s total shots. The Golden Gophers stayed in an impenetrable 2-3 zone defense all night, and even the 2-point field goals Iowa was able to manufacture were far from the basket. A combination of the zone and Minnesota personnel completely shut down any chance the Hawkeyes had of establishing an inside game, and the team appeared to panic as time slipped away.

The result was 3-pointer after 3-pointer. Six different Hawkeyes took 3-point shots, but only Matt Gatens and Bryce Cartwright made more than one.

If one statistic sums up Iowa’s night, though, it belongs to Gatens. The normally reliable junior shooting guard jacked each of his 11 shots from beyond the arc, connecting only twice. Several others rimmed in-and-out, but the Iowa City native was left frustrated after finishing with six points in 27 minutes.

“They all felt good,” he said. “Coach [Fran McCaffery] told me he thought I made about 10 of them, which is too bad — it could have been a good night that would’ve helped the team out a lot.”

As it stands, though, Gatens’ night was underwhelming at best — and he wasn’t alone. Eric May went 1-of-5 from beyond the arc, and Jordan Stoermer, Roy Devyn Marble, and Zach McCabe shot blanks.

While the bad-shot bug seemed to infect every Hawkeye, no one could seem to agree on what triggered the sickness. McCaffery said the sheer number of missed treys weighed his players down, but Cartwright didn’t think so.

“Sometimes, it might be mental, but sometimes it’s just not your night,” the point guard said. “I think that was it.”

It didn’t help that Iowa couldn’t do anything in the paint against Minnesota’s enormous frontcourt. Playing zone allowed Trevor Mbakwe, Colton Iverson, and Ralph Sampson III to clog the lane, which kept Jarryd Cole quiet and eliminated Melsahn Basabe entirely.

Iowa seemed stuck in a rut, despite the best efforts of McCaffery. The first-year coach said he tried several tactics to break the Gopher zone, but nothing seemed to work.

“There are a couple things you can do [against a zone],” McCaffery said. “You can change the lineup. You can change the offense. We did both.”

This isn’t the first time this group of Hawkeyes has been stifled by a zone, either. Penn State pulled away in the second half of its Jan. 26 win over Iowa after it switched to the defensive scheme.

Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said he had seen the struggles while watching tape and deliberately attacked Iowa’s biggest weakness.

Still, Gatens said he was surprised Smith told his players to play the full 40 minutes in the defense.

“I didn’t expect it maybe this much, but once they saw they had some early success with it, obviously, they were going to stick with it,” Gatens said. “We didn’t make the adjustment to try and do some other things. Coach tried to draw a few things up, but we weren’t executing. We weren’t getting it done.”

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