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Iowa men's hoops struggling on defense

BY BEN SCHUFF | NOVEMBER 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery talked at length during a press conference on Monday about the offensive struggles a few of his players have had in the past week.

But as a team, Iowa's biggest problem has been on the other side of the court.

The Hawkeyes have allowed their last three opponents to shoot a combined 56 percent from the field; Creighton shot 55 percent, Campbell hit 62 percent, and Indiana/Purdue-Fort Wayne connected on 52 percent. Those tallies include season-highs for Campbell and Indiana/Purdue.

The second-year head coach said Iowa's defensive woes are partly the result of a fundamental problem — guarding the basketball.

"We haven't been real good with whoever is guarding the ball, and that's collective," McCaffery said. "[Opponents] are driving to the point where help recovery is required — whether we're in man or zone — and if you keep doing that, they're breaking the defense down. Eventually, they're going to get a good shot, and eventually you're going to be distorted and give up second shots."

One could pick apart the Hawkeyes' defensive play in Iowa's last three games and find several more problems; McCaffery pointed out, for example, that his team has work to do on ball-screen defense. And while the level of competition has undoubtedly risen, Iowa has been outrebounded 107-82 in its last three games.

Then there is Iowa's problem of stopping — or failing to simply contain — the opposing team's best player. Any Hawkeye guarding Indiana/Purdue's Frank Gaines on Nov. 26 was beaten repeatedly, and Gaines scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Campbell's Eric Griffin gave Iowa all it could handle — and then some — as he scored 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting. The Hawkeyes had no answer for Doug McDermott's 66 percent shooting effort when he poured in 25 points against Iowa on Nov. 20.

"We pinpoint the guy we're trying to stop in the scouting report, but we've failed to do that the last three games," guard Matt Gatens said.

When asked what Iowa needs to do to turn things around defensively, Gatens, like McCaffery, pointed to the fundamentals on which the team needs to focus.

"It starts with ball pressure — and then, inside, not allowing them to develop an inside presence," Gatens said. "We're working on it in practice. We all know it is a problem we need to fix."

Cartwright and Archie ready to go

Point guard Bryce Cartwright and forward Devon Archie are both recovering from injuries but will be available for today's game against Clemson.

Although Cartwright hasn't missed any games, he said on Monday that he's been dealing with some "concussion symptoms" and that he has cleared all necessary tests to play on his bobblehead night tonight. The senior from Compton, Calif., didn't specify when he initially got injured.

"I'm getting over it," Cartwright said.

McCaffery said Archie suffered a wrist injury against Campbell on Nov. 23, although he couldn't remember how. The 6-9 forward dressed but didn't play against Indiana/Purdue on Nov. 26.

"I guess he went for a loose ball or went for a steal and landed on his wrist," McCaffery said. "[Archie] showed up for practice on Thanksgiving, and [his wrist] was swollen pretty good.

"He did a little bit the day before the Indiana/Purdue game, and I wasn't going to put him in. He had a good workout [on Nov. 27], so he should be OK — unless he tweaks it again, which hopefully, he won't."

Follow DI men's basketball reporter Ben Schuff on Twitter.


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