Defense leads to offense in 81-47 thrashing of Rutgers


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Much of the talk coming into Iowa’s date with Rutgers Thursday night was about the team’s offensive play.

In their last two games, both losses, the Hawkeyes didn’t work the ball inside — and when they did, they couldn’t finish at the rim. There were even times when they passed up open shots.

But what about the defense?

Sure, the Hawkeyes needed work on that end of the floor, but offensive concerns prevailed. But just as it had planned, Iowa’s defense in Thursday’s 81-47 thumping of Rutgers was crucial in the team’s 16th win of the season.

“It was activity. Was it picture perfect? Probably not. But there was activity,” Iowa coach Fran McCaferry said about his team’s effort defending its basket. “There were rotations. There was ball pressure … It comes down to we got consecutive stops, and we got some run-outs, and I thought we executed.”

Iowa was able to force 7 turnovers in the game’s first eight minutes and 45 seconds while holding Rutgers to only 9 points on 3-of-10 from the field.

That performance was the opposite of the Hawkeyes’ last game, when they allowed Northwestern to knock some shots down early and gain confidence in what was ultimately a 66-61 overtime loss.

But against an inferior opponent, Iowa was able to jump passing lanes and use active hands to pester a Scarlett Knight anytime he touched the ball. In that first stretch of the game, Iowa racked up 5 steals — three of which came from forward Jarrod Uthoff.

“Defense and our running game,” said Aaron White, who finished with 13 points on 4-of-7 from the floor. “I thought we were active defensively, especially the first 12 minutes … Those were two of our main points on the board coming into the game.”

And as it frequently happens with a team that has the ability to run-and-gun such as Iowa, that activity led to easy buckets on the other end of the floor. As White noted, the Hawkeyes planned to get those quick baskets after making stops.

Iowa finished with 26 combined points off of turnovers and the fast break. Not a bad tally considering the Hawkeyes scored just 20 points of that variety in their last two games combined.

“Believe us; we’re trying to run, but a lot of teams are doing what they can to stop that,” White said “…But kind of what [assistant coach Sherman Dillard] and Coach Fran [McCaffery] told us was that they don’t put it together in transition … so that’s where our opportunities were available.”

Yes, Rutgers suffered its 17th loss overall and its 12th in the Big Ten Thursday, but a 34-point margin of victory in a Big Ten game still carries a considerable amount of weight, and the Hawkeyes did take advantage of those opportunities White described.

Perhaps a blowout victory was what Iowa needed, though time will tell whether that’s the case or not. But after a week of frustrating play, it has to be gratifying for the Hawkeyes to execute and impose their will on an opponent as it did in Carver-Hawkeye on Thursday night.

“For us to beat them like that says something,” Uthoff said. “We kind of got them sideways, you know? And it just kind of snowballed from there.”

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

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