Iowa ready for Indiana

BY DANNY PAYNE | MARCH 03, 2015 5:00 AM

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Today in Bloomington, Indiana, the Iowa men’s basketball team has a huge opportunity. Winners of four-straight in the Big Ten and tied for the conference’s No. 4 spot, a win against a team like Indiana would be huge for the Hawkeyes in terms of seeding for the Big Ten Tournament. As of this writing, Iowa sits tied with Ohio State and Michigan State at 10-6.

But of course, it won’t be easy. The Hoosiers own a 19-10 record and are 9-7 in conference. Head coach Tom Crean’s squad is an athletic group that boasts a quartet of 40-plus percent 3-point shooters, something Iowa is familiar with after facing and beating Illinois on Feb. 25.

But, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said, the Hoosiers are more than a bunch of snipers.

“Very difficult team to defend when you look at the collection of shooters,” McCaffery said on Monday’s Big Ten coaches teleconference. “I think sometimes we overanalyze the fact that they’ve got a lot of guys who can shoot. What they have is a group of guys that are willing passers. They’re loading up those guys who can shoot.”

To a point, he’s right. Indiana is tied for sixth in the Big Ten in assists this season with 14.2 per game, 3 behind conference-leader Michigan State.

Defending that type of ball movement and shoot-making ability, McCaffery said, takes a variety of methods. He said both man and zone defenses will be in the game plan, with an extra focus on Hoosier point guard Yogi Ferrell.

So far in his senior season, Ferrell is averaging 16 points, 5 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game. He’s fourth in the Big Ten with a 2.5 assist to turnover ratio, and is shooting roughly 45 percent from the floor.

“I think the thing you’re saying with Yogi,” McCaffery said. “When he was a freshman, even though he had the ball, he still had to fit in … now he’s got a group of young guys, and it’s clearly his team.

“He can get 30, but sometimes, he doesn’t do that because he’s making sure other guys get a bunch. That’s what good point guards do.”

Luckily for the Hawkeyes, they have done enough to slow guards recently. Terran Petteway of Nebraska shot 5-of-15 against the Hawkeyes. Point guard Ahmad Starks of Illinois went 7-of-15 and turned the ball over 6 times, the majority of which came from Iowa pressure near half court. Even more, Iowa held Rayvonte Rice, Kendrick Nunn, and Malcolm Hill, all strong shooters, to 29 points combined on 9-of-35 shooting.

So yes, Ferrell, along with James Blackmon Jr., who is shooting 42.5 percent from the floor and nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc, present challenges for the Hawkeyes, but they have proved they can meet them.

And if they do, Iowa’s résumé will get stronger and stronger heading into the postseason.

“You have to defend,” McCaffery said. “Every coach looks at it that way. Our players have collectively bought in, and they’re trying to do everything we’re asking them to do in terms of the game plan.”

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

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