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Iowa men's hoops hope 3s mean three wins

BY BEN SCHUFF | NOVEMBER 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men's basketball team has plenty of room for improvement. Head coach Fran McCaffery and his players would be the first to say so.

But so far, the team's offensive totals have been noteworthy.

The Hawkeyes (2-0) scored 96 points in the season-opener against Chicago State and 95 against North Carolina A&T on Nov. 14. The 191 total points are the most an Iowa team has scored in any two-game stretch since it put up 101 against Georgia State and 90 against Texas Southern in December 2006. That was the last season in which Iowa posted a winning record (17-14).

The Black and Gold should have a good chance to continue their high scoring when they host Northern Illinois (0-2) at 7:05 p.m. today in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Huskies ranked 291st last season in scoring defense.

Iowa's first two opponents weren't defensively comparable with such Big Ten squads as Ohio State or Wisconsin, but the Hawkeyes still seem to be executing well with the ball. The squad compiled 21 assists in the first two games, a mark that ranks 10th nationally in the young season.

"We have guys who know how to score, but I think the thing that has been most impressive is we're sharing the ball," McCaffery said during a teleconference on Wednesday. "If you're going to be a scoring team, you have to have a scorer's mentality, but you have to have the ability to understand to give the ball up."

Seventeen of those assists have come on 3-pointers, a shot Iowa took 53 times in the first two games. The team connected 18 times, the highest number since the 1994-95 squad made 21 treys in its first two games.

McCaffery attributed the high number of 3-point shots taken to the styles with which the first two opponents played.  

"The critical thing is — whether it's a 3 or a 2 — you shoot when you're open," the second-year head coach said. "As long as we're open, we'll shoot them."

Another reason the Hawkeye offense has been successful is its source for points. In the first game, the bench outscored Chicago State, 57-54. Freshman Aaron White led the attack with 19 points, and Zach McCabe finished with 13.

"That was crazy," guard Bryce Cartwright said about the bench play after the team's victory on Nov. 11. "Normally, you don't see that happen, but we had a lot of energy coming off the bench and got easy buckets."

The starters took over the scoring role in Iowa's more recent game. Senior Matt Gatens scored a career-high 27 points, Eric May added 20, and Melsahn Basabe contributed 15.

Gatens said the key to that victory was taking care of the ball in the first half and getting out to an early lead with open looks.

McCaffery noted several other reasons that could explain Iowa's outbursts: The team's ability to get the ball down the floor quickly, getting the ball to Basabe, and the play of Roy Devyn Marble at both guard positions.

"Hopefully, this trend will continue," he said.

Brommer iffy tonight

Senior Andrew Brommer reinjured his right knee in the Hawkeyes' 95-79 victory over North Carolina A&T on Nov. 14.

The 6-9 forward said the injury happened when Iowa was bringing the ball up court against a press and an Aggie collided with his knee. It was the same joint in which he sprained a ligament in October, and the same on which he had surgery to remove scar tissue and bursa sac in May.

"I honestly don't have any more of an update than I did when I spoke [after the game]," McCaffery said on Wednesday. "I would say doubtful [whether he'll play], but not out of the question. It will, legitimately, be a game-time decision.

"The good news is, it's not as bad as it was before. The bad news is, it's the third time it's been hurt in the last six, seven months, so we're going to be a little bit careful on this one. He'll be cleared when he's cleared, but the last thing we want to do is rush him."


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