Iowa backcourt struggles in loss to Penn State

BY DANNY PAYNE | MARCH 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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CHICAGO — Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers had a game plan heading into Thursday’s contest with Iowa. After all, in his team’s loss to the Hawkeyes on Feb. 28, Iowa’s guards — Mike Gesell, Peter Jok, Anthony Clemmons, and Josh Oglesby — went 12-of-28 from the floor and combined for 35 of Iowa’s 81 points.

He wanted to slow that production, particularly from Gesell, who had 14 points and 7 assists in State College, Pennsylvania. All day long in his team’s 67-58 win over Iowa, his team executed.

“I don’t think anyone gives Gesell enough credit. He’s the little engine that could,” Chambers said. “… If you could slow him down, it might affect the flow of the offense, and I’ll watch film, I’m not sure if we did that effectively, but I think we did a pretty good job of it on him and Jok.”

What Chambers will likely see when he dissects the tape is what he hoped for going into the contest: Iowa’s offense was out of whack. The guards accounted for 9 of Iowa’s 12 turnovers, and the Nittany Lions scored 12 points on those turnovers. Clemmons led the Hawkeyes with 5 giveaways.

Additionally, starters Jok and Gesell accounted for a minus-16 plus/minus ratio, the lowest of any two players in the game.

“They were getting in us,” Gesell said. “They were being aggressive, and you know, as guards you can’t always force it, you’ve got to look to other guys open, too … We were looking to get guys open and looking for scoring opportunities when they happened.

“They really had a stacked defense, and sometimes it’s hard to get shots against that as a guard.”

It was hard for the quartet on Thursday. They went a combined 3-of-21 for 12 points. As a team, the Hawkeyes shot 26.3 percent from the field.

To be fair, Iowa’s offensive struggles can’t be solely pinned on its guards. The Hawkeyes look to forwards Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff for the majority of their points, and those two went 10-of-27 from the field for 41 points. But when Iowa doesn’t get the supplemental points from other positions and plays a solid team like the Nittany Lions, bad things are bound to happen.

And clearly those bad things happened Thursday, but credit Penn State for forcing errors and not letting its opponent’s backcourt facilitate any sort of rhythm for virtually the full 40 minutes. There was one brutal stretch in which the Hawkeyes went 0-of-10 from the floor and couldn’t make a shot to save their lives.

Even more, Iowa didn’t make its first field goal until the 15:04 mark of the first half, when Gesell finally managed an assist to Aaron White.

Perhaps it was an omen for the rest of the game, but Iowa’s early offensive struggles continued through the whole contest, and that meant an offensive funk that was ultimately insurmountable for the Hawkeyes.

“We didn’t get great shots, we didn’t get a lot of the things that we would have liked to have happened,” McCaffery said. “On the ball, off the ball, in the post, on the perimeter, it was just OK.”

The way “OK” looks on paper doesn’t do McCaffery’s thoughts justice. He knew it was worse than just OK.

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

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