McCaffery doesn't want players to let up against Central Michigan
In the Iowa men’s basketball team’s 86-55 season opening victory over Texas-Pan American, pretty much everything went right for Fran McCaffery’s bunch.
The Hawkeyes shot better than 44 percent from the field, hit seven 3-pointers, and forced the visiting Broncs into 19 turnovers on a night in which Iowa never trailed. The Hawkeyes emptied most of their bench and received contributions from everyone who set foot on the floor.
The fourth-year head coach just hopes his players aren’t satisfied with their performance.
“One of the disappointing things [against Pan American] was how we started the second half trading baskets,” McCaffery said. “We didn’t play with the same level of intensity that we had at the start of the first half.”
Iowa held a 45-24 advantage at the break before the game turned into a seesaw affair over the first couple of minutes of the second frame. The developments forced McCaffery to remove his top players from the contest in favor of his second unit, which, as he explained, delivered.
“[Relaxing with the lead] was disappointing, but the next group came in and revved it up, and we got the big lead,” McCaffery said. “We got great contributions from a lot of different people.”
Sophomore forward Aaron White led the Hawkeyes with 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in the opening-night triumph. He thought his group may have relaxed a little prematurely during that stretch against the Broncs but never felt his teammates let the visitors up for air.
“We were trading baskets up 21, and Coach took us out and wasn’t very happy with our intensity on the defensive end,” White said. “But when I, [Devyn Marble], and [Zach McCabe] got back in, we pushed it up to 33. So I don’t think we took our foot off the gas.”
White said he thought the team’s first-half intensity showed just how good the Hawkeyes can be when everything is clicking. He felt opening night was a complete success.
“Especially in the first half, we really played well, had really good pressure with the press, and everyone was making shots,” White said. “That was a pretty good team we played, and it was a good team win.”
Central Michigan (0-0) is in the process of breaking in new head coach Keno Davis, who was hired after the Chippewas finished just 11-21 last year — good for fifth-place in the MAC West. Davis has direct ties to Iowa City; he graduated from Iowa in 1995 and is the son of former Hawkeye coach Dr. Tom Davis.
Freshman point guard Mike Gesell feels confident his team will be able to supply the necessary offensive firepower to be successful against Central Michigan. It’s on the other end of the court where he would like to see his squad improve.
“If we can eliminate the [trading of baskets with opponents] from our game, it will elevate our team that much more,” Gesell said. “We know we’re capable of putting up points, but the question from the outside all year is going to be, ‘Can we defend?’ ”
The rookie’s words are easier said than done, and his head coach hopes those sentiments will begin to bloom against the Chippewas.
“At some point, what you’re trying to do is play to get better,” McCaffery said. “We were up 21 and content to be up 21. Didn’t take it to 30. That was disappointing.”
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