Long balls surge Hawkeye men's basketball to NIT quarterfinals

BY BEN ROSS | MARCH 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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It was an ill-advised pass at best when Aaron White drove the lane at the end of the first half in Iowa’s 75-63 second-round NIT win over Stony Brook on March 22. The sophomore forward saw the lane clogged by two Seawolf defenders and attempted to dish the ball to his 6-10 teammate, Gabriel Olaseni.

Instead, the ball bounced to Iowa’s Zach McCabe, who found himself wide open at the top of the key. He took the shot and swished a 3 to give the Hawkeyes 30-28 lead with four minutes to play in the first half.

“I have been shooting a lot of [3-pointers] in practice,” McCabe said. “I felt confident to hit my shots.”

Iowa shot 8-of-19 as a unit behind the 3-point line in its win over Stony Brook. While that may not seem like an extravagant number of long-ball makes, the 24 points those shots accounted for exploited a weakness that Iowa guard Roy Devyn Marble said they saw in film leading up to the contest.

“We noticed in transition that they don’t cover the 3-point line very well, and they told us to look for those opportunities,” Marble said. “We all did a good job of noticing that and stepping up and knocking them down.”

Marble and McCabe led the squad with two 3-pointers apiece, and Eric May, White, Josh Oglesby, and Mike Gesell each added a long ball of his own.

Even though some of the Hawkeyes said they noticed Stony Brook’s vulnerability to the ball in film, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said that the shots sort of happened naturally as the contest wore on.

[The 3-point shots] “happened in the flow of the game,” he said. “The way Stony Brook defends, they’re going to protect the basket. They’re going to protect the drive. That’s how they play. They did a phenomenal job of that. They’re going to make you make jump shots. We had driving-kick opportunities. We had guys lose on the baseline a couple times.”

“To beat Stony Brook, you’re going to have to make some jumpers.”

Prior to the March 22 matchup, the Hawkeyes hadn’t been shooting the long ball particularly well. They had just made 28 percent of their 3-pointers during the Big Ten season, the worst in the league.

The squad was also averaging just under five 3-pointers made during conference play. The last time Iowa shot as well as it did from beyond the arc against Stony Brook was on Feb. 17, when it hit 5-of-9 attempts in a 72-51 win over Minnesota in Carver-Hawkeye.

That being said, the Hawkeyes can’t rely on themselves making such shots in its future contest — a quarterfinal game at Virginia at 6 p.m. Wednesday — if it wants to make the trip to Madison Square Garden later on. But still, it’s hard to deny the dimension such sharpshooting adds to Iowa’s arsenal.

“We’re a lot tougher team when we knock down 3s like that,” May said.

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