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Iowa's offense stumbling in big games

BY JACOB SHEYKO | DECEMBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa basketball team set out to establish an identity of toughness and defense. It was something the Hawkeyes believed was lacking last season, and for the most part, that identity has reared its head.

While far from pretty, Iowa’s ground out games mostly because of its ability to defend.

However, 11 games is no small sample size but closer to a significant sign of what to expect this season from the Hawkeyes. And so far, all signs point to a struggling offense, one that has cost the Hawkeyes against quality opponents.

“You just got to shoot good ones and shoot them confidently,” Aaron White said about Iowa’s shooting woes. “That’s all it is. You can’t hunt shots; you can’t shoot bad ones. You shoot the good ones, have your feet set, and be confident.”

Head coach Fran McCaffery knew Iowa’s nonconference schedule was tough before the season started.

Iowa has played No. 9 Texas, then-ranked Syracuse, No. 24 North Carolina, and No. 13 Iowa State in the first month of the season. 

In those four games, Iowa has struggled to find its footing on the offensive side of the floor, including its most recent loss to Iowa State, in which the Hawkeyes failed to make a field goal for eight minutes spanning the end of the first half to the beginning of the second.

“It’s a little like the Texas game in a sense that once the wheels started coming off, defensively we broke down, offensively we broke down,” McCaffery said after the Iowa State loss. “Maybe a little more offensively than defensively in this game.”

In those four games, Iowa has averaged 63.7 points per game on 36.1 percent shooting from the field, just 26.6 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

Granted, tougher teams typically present tougher defenses, but the drop-off from Iowa’s shooting percentage in its other games — 45.3 percent — is enough to cause concern.

Some decrease was to be expected. Iowa lost three players to graduation last year, including Devyn Marble, who was the Hawkeyes’ go-to offensive threat.

But it hasn’t been the quality of looks that troubled the Hawkeyes but simply making them.

Iowa ranks 33rd in the nation with 221 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc, yet it ranks 270th in the nation in 3-point percentage — 30.3 percent.

Another common theme in Iowa’s three losses has been big runs from the opponent with no response from the Hawkeyes’ offense.

In each of the Hawkeyes’ three losses, there has been at least one five-minute span where Iowa has failed to make a field goal. In two of the losses — Texas and Iowa State — that drought has lasted longer than eight minutes.

“I thought we were past it,” White said about the big second-half runs. “If I knew something that was happening, I would tell you, and I would fix it. But I really don’t.”

However, despite the struggles on the offensive end of the floor, the team continues to stress defense. In moments when the offense isn’t clicking, the defense is looked upon to hold its ground until the offense comes around.

“We just weren’t responding defensively,” Mike Gesell said about Iowa State. “We weren’t forcing them to do what we wanted them to do. We were kind of just letting them run their offense, letting them run everything smoothly.

There have been bright spots on offense. Aaron White continues to be efficient (55.4 percent) from the field, the frontcourt players have all played well, and Peter Jok appears to be finding a groove recently.

But as a team, the offense has been inconsistent.

And for the near future, if Iowa hopes to beat teams similar to the ones it has lost to this season, the ball needs to find its way into the bucket.

“You go back to work,” McCaffery said about getting back on track. “You break the film down. You hold them accountable. You don’t kill them. You’re reasonable about it. You know, you’ve got to encourage them. You’ve got to get them believing again because they clearly had some doubt.”

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


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