Iowa men's hoops dialing in defensively ahead of Ohio State showdown

BY TORK MASON | JANUARY 22, 2013 6:30 AM

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Iowa men’s basketball head coach Fran McCaffery questioned his team’s toughness following a 95-67 loss at Michigan on Jan. 6. The Hawkeyes appeared to be uninterested on defense and allowed the potent Wolverine offense to seemingly do whatever it wanted.

Since that game, however, the Hawkeyes are 2-1, thanks to some lockdown defense. Iowa has held its last three opponents to a combined 37.9 percent shooting from the floor, 32 percent from behind the arc.

Those are the kind of defensive results the Hawkeyes say fans should expect to see.

“I think [the Michigan game] was a little out of character for this team,” junior Devyn Marble said. “Last year, I might have said we just needed to work on our defense. It was a little out of character. We probably got a little frustrated, taking quick shots, and it affected us on defense.”

The Hawkeyes’ effort to protect the arc has been much improved from 2011-12. Iowa allowed teams to hit on just under 35 percent of their 3-point attempts last season, but the Hawks lead the Big Ten in 3-point percentage defense with a mark of 28.7 percent.

Three freshman starters have had a lot to do with the improved defense. Guards Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons have provided quick on-ball defense and also consistently stay tight on their man away from the ball. Center Adam Woodbury has given the team the kind of inside defensive presence lacking last season. The Sioux City native is averaging 5.4 rebounds per game and can alter shots in the paint, even if he doesn’t get a hand on them.

“We just have more bodies,” McCaffery said. “We have more bodies; we have a little more experience and a little more size.”

The Black and Gold have struggled to put together strong defensive performances on the road this season, including a 95-79 loss at Virginia Tech in November. But the win against Northwestern was a step in the right direction, Aaron White said.

“I think we really learned from [the Michigan game] at Northwestern,” the sophomore said. “We went up there and took them right out of their stuff.”

Iowa has given itself opportunities to put opponents away early in the last three games, giving up an average of 19 first-half points in that span.  But only in a 70-50 win at Northwestern on Jan. 13 were the Hawkeyes able to maintain that level of intensity over the course of the entire game. Michigan State scored 38 second-half points, and Wisconsin scored 48 to nearly grab a victory after being down by as many as 20 points.

Marble said the next step for the team is to be more consistent in each game.

“We’ve had our defensive lapses, like any team,” he said. “But the difference between the good teams and the great teams is how well you minimize those lapses. And we’re still working on that. So each game is a work in progress.”

Marble and the Hawkeyes will have their hands full tonight when they take on Ohio State in Columbus. The Buckeyes are led by junior forward Deshaun Thomas, who leads the Big Ten in scoring at 20.8 points per game.

“[Ohio State has a] really good scorer in Deshaun, probably the best scorer in the Big Ten this year,” Marble said. “Coming off a tough loss [on Jan. 19], I think they lost by 3 to Michigan State, so they’re going to come in with a chip on their shoulder. So we’ve got to be able to meet their intensity and their aggressiveness in the first few minutes of the game.”

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.