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The case of the disappearing Hawks

BY RYAN PROBASCO | MARCH 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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INDIANAPOLIS — “What the hell just happened here?” Roy Marble Sr. said puzzled as his son’s Hawkeyes fled the floor following their demoralizing 67-62 loss to Northwestern in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Marble’s confusion has become common among Hawkeye fans and followers as of late. The loss to the Wildcats moved Iowa to just 1-6 in its last seven games, popularizing the notion that Fran McCaffery’s squad could be moving towards the bubble of the NCAA Tournament.

“Throughout games, we’ve given up too many quality shots to opponents, and they’ve been making them,” senior guard Devyn Marble said. “Everybody’s a Division-I player, so if you give them open shots, they’re going to knock them down. I think we have to work on our communication and our rotations.”

If there’s anything that’s proved to be untrue about this Iowa squad, it’s the belief that the depth of this roster could carry it when other teams are fatigued late in the season.

Outside of Marble and Jarrod Uthoff, the rest of Iowa’s players managed just 20 points. Aside from Marble, McCaffery’s starters totaled just 7 points.

“I thought Uthoff and Marble played great, but we were able to do a pretty good job on the other guys,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said. “Our whole goal going into this game was to keep this game in the 60s, if we could, and give ourselves a chance in the last five minutes. Let’s have some game pressure on them, and then we would have to make some plays and execute, and that’s what we were able to do.”

For Iowa, Aaron White totaled just 5 points in 28 minutes. Usually reliable point guard Mike Gesell shot 0-for-10 from the field. And senior power forward Melsahn Basabe totaled just nine minutes of play.

Only six Wildcats saw the floor for more than two minutes Thursday. In addition, Tre Demps and Drew Crawford — Northwestern’s top two players — both logged 40 minutes, showing that a reliance on depth sometimes isn’t the best course.

Iowa players and coaches have admitted that fatigue has been an issue for the team recently. But knowing the type of minutes some Northwestern players were able to play Thursday — and adding in the fact that McCaffery’s bench has swallowed any opportunity for the head coach to overplay anyone this season — the excuse grows weaker and weaker.

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McCaffery has stayed stern about his rotation use, saying it will always be determined with a game-to-game, situation-based process. But if his reliance on certain players continues to plague Iowa against clearly inferior opponents, there may be no one to blame for Iowa’s gut-wrenching collapse other than the architect of the team’s revival.

“There’s no magic formula; you just have to keep working,” McCaffery said. “What we’ve said over these last two weeks is you work your way out of things like this. You don’t talk your way out of it. You don’t fake your way out of it. You work your way out of it, and you stay positive.

“We’ll stay positive as coaches. But we’ll stay positive as one another.”


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