What's eating at Iowa men's basketball?


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The Iowa men’s basketball team hasn’t had a lot of good fortune in close games this season, and the mounting losses have created some frustration among the fans. But why the Hawkeyes continue to struggle remains a mystery with four regular-season games left to play.

The prevailing thought during Devyn Marble’s monthlong slump in January was that when the junior returned to form, he could right the ship. And for the three games between Feb. 9 and 17, that seemed like the solution.

But the Hawkeyes blew a 19-point lead in a 64-60 loss at Nebraska on Feb. 23, despite Marble’s 18-point night on 7-of-14 shooting. Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said he’s not sure what to do to help his team find consistency at this point.

“We’ve tried pretty much everything,” he said. “We’ve tried different players. We’ve gone inside. We’ve run clear-outs, motions, sets.”

Poor shooting reappeared in the most recent second-half collapse — the Black and Gold shot a woeful 28 percent from the floor after building a 41-25 halftime lead. But McCaffery said the issue against the Cornhuskers wasn’t on the offensive end, even if he wasn’t pleased with his team’s aggressiveness on offense.

“The reason we had so much pressure on us offensively was because our defense was so bad,” McCaffery said. “That was like one of our performances last year when we were nonexistent at the defensive end of the floor.

“You’re going to have games where you don’t shoot it well — we’ve had a ton of games where we haven’t shot it well. We’ve really hung in, but it was lucky we had a 16-point lead [with] the way we were playing defense.”

McCaffery said some of the offensive issues might be due to not having a regular lineup at the end of games. Several different lineups have been used late in games this year, and the third-year head coach said that might have a hand in the lack of consistency.

“That is going to take a little bit of time to figure out and so forth,” McCaffery said. “But when it comes down to it, we’re getting good shot opportunities by good players.”

It’s easy to expect the shortcomings to start weighing on the players and even affecting their performance with the close losses continuing to mount. But Marble said past failures are the furthest thing from a player’s mind when the adrenaline is flowing.

“[You don’t think about it] when you’re in the heat of the moment,” he said. “Probably after the game, once you’ve lost, you think, ‘Aw man, that’s another one.’ But not in the heat of the moment. We’re still trying to figure out how to close out the game, so you’re not thinking about the [failures] too much.”

Freshman point guard Mike Gesell agreed, saying the key is for the team to stay positive and play with confidence, despite any previous miscues.

“That’s one thing we can do better — each individual just play more confidently,” he said. “Just continue to be aggressive down the stretch. You can’t be afraid to make mistakes because that’s when you tighten up. That’s when you miss a free throw or make a turnover.”

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