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Hawkeyes set for guard trio

BY DANNY PAYNE | FEBRUARY 25, 2015 5:00 AM

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After two wins last week, the Iowa men’s basketball team is scheduled to face Illinois today, a team that provides and interesting matchup for Hawkeyes.

Both Iowa and Illinois have 16-10 records overall, and Iowa’s 8-6 record in the Big Ten is one game better than the Fighting Illini. In terms of offensive production, the teams get their points from different places.

Iowa is one of the taller teams in the Big Ten and gets a large chunk of its offensive contributions from two of its forwards — Jarrod Uthoff and Aaron White. They are the only players on Iowa’s roster who average double-digit points per game.

Conversely, Illinois enjoys most of its offensive production from its guards — 6-4 Rayvonte Rice averages 15.9 per contest, while Kendrick Nunn and Malcom Hill average 11.5 and 14.7 per game, respectively.

Even more, those three players are all shooting just below (Nunn is at 39.7 percent) or more than 40 percent from 3-point range on the season and will be one of the best, if not the best, trio of shooters the Hawkeyes have seen this season.

“It puts a lot of pressure on your defense; how you plan to guard them,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “They’re also willing to give it up, which is good. It’s not like one guy gets it, he puts his head down. They’ll give it up, move on.”

So how will the Hawkeyes combat this when they try to win three-consecutive Big Ten games for the first time this season?

Experience certainly helps. Iowa has seen some of the best guards in the Big Ten and in the country this season, including Marcus Paige of North Carolina and Travis Trice of Michigan State, just to name a couple.

“[Illinois’] guys can go,” Clemmons said. “… It’s going to be our job as guards — me, Mike, Pete, Josh — to try to contain them and not let them have an All-American night.”

That’s not to say any of those three players in head coach John Groce’s crew is necessarily at that level, but put together, they can be more dangerous than any individual player.

And if history is any indication, the Hawkeyes better hope they get a Paige-esque performance rather than one like Trice’s. In Iowa’s loss to Michigan State in Caver-Hawkeye Arena, Trice dropped 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 7-of-8 from beyond the 3-point line. Paige scored 13 on 4-of-16 shooting.

Regardless of which team Iowa does face off against, it’s imperative those guards Clemmons spoke about have strong games defensively. Clemmons, one of the best perimeter defenders in the conference, is all but a given to play well, while Jok and Gesell aren’t far behind, statistically speaking.

According to Basketballreference, Jok’s defensive rating is 109.3, while Gesell falls right behind him at 109.5. Oglesby is the worst-rated of the bunch at 113.1.

So it’s obvious the Hawkeyes are in for a test against Illinois, and a passing grade would greatly benefit — and perhaps lock up — Iowa’s NCAA Tournament chances.

“Athletic team. It’s going to be a tough game for us; they’re fighting for their postseason lives, so to speak,” White said. “It’s going to be a good game.”

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


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