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Iowa notebook: Shooting struggles, recruiting Paige, and more

BY DANNY PAYNE | DECEMBER 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa men’s basketball team’s season is young, there’s no denying that. The Hawkeyes have only played two marquee games thus far, both of which were losses to then-No. 10 Texas and then-No. 23 Syracuse in Madison Square Garden.

Part of what plagued the Hawkeyes in those games — most notably, Texas — was an inability to shoot well from the floor. In that contest, Iowa shot a lousy 25 percent in the first half and finished the game with a 29.6 percent performance.

Iowa’s worst shooter as of late has been point guard Mike Gesell. In the Hawkeyes’ last two games, wins over Northern Illinois and Longwood, Gesell hasn’t made a shot from the floor, going 0-for-10.

“I’m still confident. Whether I miss 20 in a row or make 20 in a row,” he said. “I’m going to still be confident in myself and still keep working on it. Every day, I keep working on it.

“I’ll come around.”

While Gesell has struggled, Iowa has been able to win those games partially because other Hawkeyes have picked him up. After struggling early on, Josh Oglesby has shot 42 percent from beyond the arc in Iowa’s last two games.

For Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, that’s one of the most valuable aspects of his team.

“Everybody has got to work it out individually. Getting a ton of shots in practice, they have made shots in practice, they’re going to make shots in games,” McCaffery said. “Fortunately, we have had enough guys make them on nights when others are off.”

Recruiting Marcus Paige

One of the stories heading into Iowa’s matchup with North Carolina on Wednesday is the Hawkeyes’ date with 2012 Linn Mar graduate Marcus Paige. He, along with Gesell and Adam Woodbury, played AAU ball together throughout their prep careers.

When McCaffery was hired in 2010, he went after Paige, attempting to bring him into the program McCaffery called “depleted” from previous years of “recruiting.” Paige had just finished his sophomore year of high school and would have been a substantial name for the Hawkeyes’ new head coach to land right off the bat.

“I had heard about him, knew he was good, went up to see him, and I said, he’s special, he’s different,” McCaffery said. “He’s a difference maker and just a fabulous person on top of it.”

Woodbury and Gesell said there was some conversation about what it’d be like if the trio played together, but Woodbury said North Carolina was Paige’s dream school, and their conversations never came to fruition.

Now, all three are juniors, and Paige averages 15.2 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. Gesell is averaging 4.9, 1.9, and 3.8, and Woodbury has posted 9.1, 6.3, and 0.7.

It’s not surprising a player of Paige’s caliber chose a national powerhouse such as North Carolina over a program in somewhat of a transition, as Iowa was.

“You know,” McCaffery said. “He would have been a great fit for what we were trying to build at that time.”

Free throws a struggle

Like Paige, Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff played in the Mississippi Valley Conference in high school. Unlike Paige (who is shooting 83 percent from the free-throw line), Uthoff has had trouble from the charity strip this season.

Although he ranks second for the Hawkeyes in scoring with 11.6 points per game — behind only Aaron White — the Cedar Rapids Jefferson graduate has only managed to make 47 percent of his free throws.

Struggling at the line is something new for Uthoff, who finished last season with an 82 percent clip from the stripe. He has yet to be perfect through seven games from the line, and his worst performance came Nov. 24 against Pepperdine, when he went 3-of-7. The game before, a loss to Syracuse, the junior went 3-of-6.

“I missed a couple early ones that I should’ve made that I thought I was going to make,” Uthoff said. “And then you start thinking about it, you lose some of your confidence, and that’s about it.”

As illustrated above, he said the problem early in the season is more mental than anything. However, because he has been a solid free-throw shooter in the past, he doesn’t fret over his slow start.

“That won’t stay down,” Uthoff said. “My percentage of free throws will go up, so I’m not really that concerned about it.”

Follow @dannyapayne on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa men’s basketball team.


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