Iowa men's basketball has full bag of tricks in frontcourt


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Junior guard Devyn Marble is arguably the best player on the Iowa men’s basketball team, but the Hawkeyes’ frontcourt players dominated the action in an 86-55 victory over Texas Pan-American on Nov. 9.

Iowa’s frontcourt combined for 57 points, 38 rebounds, and 10 blocks in the win. Sophomore forward Aaron White flashed his versatility with 4 steals and led all scorers with 16 points.

Versatility is the apt term to describe the mix of skills head coach Fran McCaffery has in his frontline players. Zach McCabe and White can step out onto the perimeter and hit 3-pointers.

Melsahn Basabe can haul in rebounds. Eric May provides strong on-ball defense.

“We’ve got a lot of versatility; I think people don’t realize,” McCabe said. “Eric can step out, and Mel can hit a 15-footer. Just having that type of versatility makes our team more of a threat.”

McCabe said 7-1 freshman Adam Woodbury’s presence in the paint has opened up the Hawkeyes offensively. Having a legitimate center down low allows McCabe and White to spend more time on the perimeter, where they can find a rhythm from behind the arc. McCabe took full advantage of that opportunity against the Broncs and went 4-for-4 on his 3-point shots.

“Having a big guy in there just makes my and Whitey’s job a little bit easier,” McCabe said.

“[Woodbury’s] posting up so hard, and guys are down and in on him. So we have open shots, and it’s all because he’s posting up and people are looking at him.”

The frontcourt can do more than just excel in the half-court offense, though.

White, McCabe, Basabe, and May are each capable of leading a fast break following a rebound or turnover. McCaffery praised their ability to run the floor, but said it’s equally important to know what they’re doing when they push the tempo.

White said he’s grown more confident in his ability to put the ball on the floor, and that creates mismatches for him, because opposing big men “don’t want to chase you from getting the rebound all the way down the court.”

Freshman point guard Mike Gesell noted that having forwards who can bring the ball up is part of a chain reaction. It gives the break a new dynamic because the guards don’t have to hang back and wait for an outlet pass. That gives the forward matchups against bigger players who they can beat with quickness.

That was something Gesell said the Hawkeyes felt they could exploit against Texas Pan-American. He said the Hawkeyes saw on film that the Broncs didn’t always get back on defense in transition.

“Usually, a guard is trying to pick up the ball,” Gesell said. “[Forwards who can run the fast break] just create matchup problems all over for the defense … and the personnel we have really allows us to do that.”

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