Iowa shooters still searching for their shot


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The term “practice makes perfect” has yet to apply to the Iowa basketball team, at least as far as shooting goes.

Head coach Fran McCaffery has described the scene at an Iowa practice as one filled with efficiency, where shooters such as Josh Oglesby and Peter Jok are making “everything.”

But that hasn’t translated to games, in which the Hawkeyes are shooting just 42.3 percent from the field.

Despite the struggles, members of the team believe the Hawkeyes are close, and that it’s only a matter of time before those baskets in practice turn transfer over to games in which it matters most.

“Every shooter goes through some slumps at some point in the season,” guard Mike Gesell said. “It’s inevitable.”

If slumps are the case, several players on Iowa are going through them simultaneously — the Hawkeyes field-goal percentage ranks 224th in the nation.

While unlikely, if that percentage holds true for the remainder of the season, it’ll be the second-worst percentage of a McCaffery-coached team in his 19 (counting this season) years of head coaching. 

It doesn’t get much better as the Hawkeyes move farther away from the basket either; Iowa ranks 251st in the nation shooting 31.3 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

Of its fairly consistent 10-man rotation, seven of the players are shooting below 40 percent from the floor.

Most of Iowa’s struggles have come from facing elite teams such as No. 8 Texas or No. 21 North Carolina, but some of them are self-inflicted as well.

“I think there’s a lot of factors that go into that,” McCaffery said on Dec. 1. “We’ve got a couple guys maybe trying to be a little more than they should be right now, and they’ve got to settle down a little bit.”

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. For the most part, Iowa is getting good looks. The shots just aren’t falling.

Luckily for Iowa, it has had several individuals step up enough in games when the shots aren’t falling for the Hawkeyes to hold a 7-2 record even with the shooting struggles.

For instance, in Iowa’s 60-55 win over North Carolina, while the Hawkeyes shot just 32.7 percent from the floor, Gesell and Adam Woodbury made enough shots down the stretch to pull out the victory.

McCaffery was quick to point out that the shooters are doing enough in other aspects of the game to mask their struggles, such as Jarrod Uthoff grabbing rebounds (6.1 per game) or Oglesby taking care of the ball (24 assists to 5 turnovers).

“He really locked in, and he’s not breaking down at all,” McCaffery said about Oglesby. “So when he’s out there, if the shot’s going, he’s really good. If the shot’s not going, he’s still playing like an experienced player who can help you win, and that’s what you have to be.”

It’s not just Oglesby or Uthoff, though. Other players have taken to make sure that they make an impact on the game beyond making shots, including Jok.

“I and Coach Kirk [Speraw] have been talking about doing the little things,” Jok said. “Just because my shot’s not falling doesn’t mean I can’t help the team in other ways. Just doing the little things. The things that people can’t see in the box score.”

If there’s a time for Iowa to start knocking down its shots, it’s Tuesday against Alcorn State, which allows opponents to shoot 47.7 percent from the floor and 35.4 percent from 3 — particularly with the Hawkeyes’ Dec. 12 matchup against No. 14 Iowa State looming.

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

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

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