Iowa men’s hoops faces turnover struggles ahead of Virginia Tech

BY TOM CLOS | NOVEMBER 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa men’s basketball team headed to Mexico last week a perfect 3-0.

When they returned to Iowa City, they were no longer unbeaten and had a major weakness exposed.

The Hawkeyes struggled in almost every offensive area — the exception being shooting free throws — in their 75-63 loss to Wichita State last week in Cancún. The scoring woes were rather sudden, given the team had averaged 78 points in three contests before heading south of the border.

Turnovers, on the other hand, have plagued the Black and Gold throughout their 5-1 start, and they finally ended up costing the hoopsterss.

“I look back at [the Wichita State game], and in the first minute of the second half, we turned it over and don’t execute on a set play,” coach Fran McCaffery said in Cancún. “We need to start differently.”

Iowa has handed the ball to the other side 86 times this season, and it averages 14.3 giveaways through its first six contests.

The problem can possibly be traced to the team’s backcourt, and Devyn Marble leads the Hawkeyes in this dubious category. The guard has committed 17 turnovers himself, while freshman guard Mike Gesell has been guilty 13 times. The epidemic has also contributed to a poor assist to turnover ratio for Iowa — the group averages one more turnover than assist per game.

“You have to know which guys are open and who is hot, especially at the point-guard position,” Gesell said. “We need to be more aggressive and attack a little bit more.”

The Hawkeyes will try to take better care of the ball  during the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge, when they will head to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

The Hokies (5-0) have a veteran backcourt of senior guard Erick Green and junior guard Jarell Eddie. Green leads the squad in scoring, averaging 24.4 points per game, and Eddie adds 18.8 points per contest.

“I have been really impressed with Virginia Tech,” McCaffery said. “They’re a terrific shooting team, and they have a number of guys that can make shots.”

First-year Virginia Tech head coach James Johnson is delighted his team has made it through games against East Tennessee State, Rhode Island, Virginia Military Institute, North Carolina-Greensboro, and Appalachian State unscathed. He knows, however, that the Hawkeyes will provide their toughest assignment to date.

“They’re bigger, more physical than the teams we’ve played so far,” Johnson said in a teleconference. “But we have some size, too, so we’re going to see how we do against that.”

He also emphasized how big an opportunity the ACC-Big Ten Challenge is for the participating schools and said it presents a chance to measure a team against a fellow power-conference squad.

“They’re coming into our building, and they’ve played some good teams,” Johnson said. “We feel fortunate that we’re able to go up against a good team in this challenge like them.”

The annual event hasn’t been kind to the Hawkeyes historically. The program is just 2-9 in the challenge and hasn’t scored a victory since 2005 against NC State.

McCaffery though, didn’t want to discuss the past.

“I don’t look at history,” he said. “We’re a very young team, and it’s a challenge for our guys. We’re trying to get better and play well.”

To break the six-year losing streak, Iowa will no doubt have to post a better effort offensively than it did against the Shockers. Breaking the current trend of committing double-digit turnovers will be vital as well.

But Marble isn’t concerned about the team’s weaknesses, insisting that the Hawkeyes will persevere through their early season struggles relying on their strengths.

“We’re a really good offensive team,” Marble said. “So I’m really not too worried.”

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