Hawkeyes fighting three-point irrelevance ahead of Penn State matchup

BY TOM CLOS | JANUARY 31, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa men’s basketball team has been vastly improved in many areas this season — primarily on defense and overall depth.

Three-point shooting has been a different story.

The Hawkeyes rank 10th in the conference in shooting percentage from the 3-point line and beyond, entering tonight firing at a 30.3 percent clip. Since league play has started, the group is shooting just 27.2 percent overall from long range, highlighted by a 3-of-17 (17.6 percent) day against Indiana Dec. 31 and a 2-of-10 (20 percent) night in their victory over Wisconsin Jan 19.

On an individual level, sophomore guard Josh Oglesby has been the biggest offender from long range this season. The underclassmen has attempted a team high 83 3s but has made only 23 of them, posting a 27.7 percent average.

“Your confidence is obviously not that high when you aren’t making shots, but in practice I’ve been making them,” Oglesby said. “It’s just frustrating going into the game feeling good and it’s just not going in.”

Oglesby hasn’t been the lone culprit in the team’s bad 3-point shooting. Junior guard Devyn Marble, freshman guard Mike Gesell, and junior forward Zach McCabe have collaborated to go 65-of-196 (33.2 percent) from long range.

For Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, one player having a bad season is feasible but a team-wide struggle such as this has seemed inconceivable.

“A lot of times you figure one guy has a 1-for-5 and the other guy has got a 3-for-5 and the other guy has got a 2-for-5 out there; now you’re OK,” he said. “So the fact that all of them are struggling at the same time is kind of odd.”

The Hawkeyes’ woes from 3-point land has hurt in big moments, especially in tight losses to the Hoosiers, Michigan State, and most recently, Purdue on Sunday. The lack of accuracy has essentially kept the Black and Gold out of the NCAA Tournament picture entering the final full month of the regular season.

“[The 3-point shooting struggles] are frustrating because the guys have really battled for us and we are in a position to win all these games,” McCaffery said. “I mean, if we win some of those, we would probably be ranked.”

Luckily for Iowa, its defense has stepped up when called upon to supplement for lackluster offensive performances, leading some to believe if the 3 balls can begin to drop, the Hawkeyes could be on their way to dancing come March.

And at this point, they’ll have to.

“We’ve actually been playing some defense, and it’s really kept us in games and given us a chance to win at the end,” Marble said. “If we continue to get stops and rebound the ball, shots are going to fall. They’re going to have to.”

Winless Lions come to Carver

Penn State (8-12, 0-8 Big Ten) started the season 8-4 but has lost its last eight games, the most recent a 65-51 loss to Ohio State on Jan 26.

The Nittany Lions have struggled adjusting to life without their best player, senior point guard Tim Frazier, who ruptured an Achilles tendon suffered against Akron on Nov. 20. The team is now in the hands of sophomore guard D.J. Newbill, who leads the Lions, averaging 15.5 points per game.

“They have had some time now, and with injuries, you typically want to know as early as possible,” McCaffery said. “They are going to battle you as hard and as long as anybody else in college basketball.”

All of that being said, Penn State is winless in conference play, has an RPI of 182, and it ranks 146th in the nation in scoring (61 ppg). In other words, tonight is a must-win for the Hawkeyes.

There’s no need to tell the head coach though, he knows the situation his team is in.

“We have to win our next game, that’s what we’ve got to do,” McCaffery said. “If we lose, we better play well and feel like we’ve made progress.”

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