Iowa men's basketball still in need of a go-to option


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Aaron White said following Iowa’s win over Penn State on Feb. 1 that head coach Fran McCaffery had been looking for someone to step up and become a go-to player.

A week later, McCaffery is still searching.

Devyn Marble entered the season as the Hawkeyes’ obvious choice to fill the role, but the junior has struggled since starting Big Ten play. He is averaging just 8.8 points per game in conference, including a paltry 6 points per contest in his last five games.

McCaffery said after Iowa’s loss at Minnesota on Feb. 3 that something has been missing since Marble returned from injury.

“He’s a terrific player; he’s just not playing well,” McCaffery said. “And clearly, he’s not playing with any confidence. We have consistently challenged him and tried to work with him. He was doing OK, and then when he got hurt, he sat for a bit, and he wasn’t the same when he came back. He just seemed to be out of sync. His shot isn’t the same; he’s not going by people like he normally does. “He’s not affecting the game the way he typically can.”

Marble’s health has been a subject of speculation, but both he and McCaffery said he’s fine. He just needs to work it out himself, Marble said.

“It’s frustrating, but I’ve got to find a way to make it work,” Marble said after his team’s loss to Minnesota. “That’s all there is to it.”

With Marble struggling, many expected White to step up and be the player the team can depend on β€” especially in the clutch. But in numerous close games, White has missed critical free throws, including one Wednesday night that would have pulled the Hawkeyes to within 1 point late in a double-overtime loss against Wisconsin.

White is also mired in a shooting slump over his last five games. The sophomore is 23-of-57 during that stretch, more than 10 percent below his season average. McCaffery said the offense simply isn’t where he wants it to be, and it’s holding the team back despite strong defensive effort.

“We feel as though, defensively, we’ve played about as well as we can play,” McCaffery said in Monday’s teleconference. “Offensively, we’re not where we need to be to beat the [teams of the] caliber of the teams that we’ve been playing. Hopefully, we’ll continue to improve in that area.”

McCaffery said a major issue in his team’s close games struggles has been its late-game execution and missed free throws. He also suggested maybe constant flux at point guard β€” freshmen Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons have both started at the position, and Marble has also logged minutes at the point β€” has affected the team’s ability to find a rhythm.

“It’s great to have three guys who can play point guard, but at the same time, we’re bouncing around,” McCaffery said in the teleconference. “Those guys have been pretty darn good, but not as sharp as we need to be late [in the] game.”

Senior Eric May said the Black and Gold have done well at times without a clear primary scorer. The key is sticking to the game plan, he said.

“That’s kind of been our deal, making plays as a team,” he said after the Minnesota loss. “But we’ve just got to really lock in and execute our sets; when we need a bucket, we’ve got to execute. There can be no confusion with the players; it’s got to be together.”

May and the other bench players have provided a lift on both ends of the floor in conference play, but despite their contributions, McCaffery said he needs something more.

“It’s a great weapon to have, that weapon being depth,” he said in the teleconference. “But at the same time, I’d like to see a few of our guys be a little more consistent.”

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