IOWA CITY, Iowa – What’s wrong with Iowa isn’t mystery. What can be done about it remains a hard question.
Ohio State exposed the Hawkeyes on both ends of the floor Thursday night. The Buckeyes smartly attacked weaknesses in a 92-81 victory that wasn’t really as close as the final score indicated.
Iowa’s inability to defend and cold streaks on offense sunk it again. The Buckeyes used a 16-1, first-half run that was reminiscent of Michigan’s early spurt Tuesday. The Wolverines won, 75-68.
Ohio State sliced through the Hawkeye defense for layups. When the lane shut down, it kicked it out for open threes. The Hawkeyes were helpless.
They played better in the second half, but the hole they created was too deep. And, like Michigan on Tuesday, the Buckeyes missed a lot of open shots after halftime. It could have ended a lot worse.
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Tuesday, Iowa lacked effort and intensity in falling behind. Thursday, those things were present but the execution was not. If it’s not one thing, it’s been another for this outfit.
It starts with an inability to stop dribble penetration. The rest of the defense breaks down from there and opponents enjoy way too many open looks.
When you’re unable to stop the other team, your offense has to be nearly flawless. Iowa boasts some firepower, but not enough to overcome Ohio State shooting 53 percent from the floor.
Coach Fran McCaffery has said Iowa can make up for lateral quickness on the perimeter by changing defenses throughout a game. Buckeye bench boss Chris Holtmann felt like his team won because it handled those changes. Michigan did as well.
Maybe Iowa should focus on one defense. With the lack of on-ball defenders and plenty of size in the post, zone would be the way to go. The problem is the Hawkeyes don’t play that consistently well, either.
McCaffery suggested Thursday that his team needs longer offensive possessions, resulting in better shots. He thinks that will help his team defensively. They won’t be scrambling as much and can set up its press.
I kind of get what he’s saying. This team might be at its best when its full court pressure creates easy offense. That’s how it’s built. It’s tough to see it becoming successful as a half-court team, however.
Iowa players like Jordan Bohannon, Tyler Cook and Nicholas Baer said after the game that they don’t have any answers outside of continuing to practice and improving. That’s what they should do. That’s what they have to do. But they could use more help from the bench.
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McCaffery hints that the team lacks leadership. Baer feels like the team could be better job of carrying out the game plan. These things are magnified during tough times but they also are telling.
With no trading in college basketball, the coaches know the hand with which they’re working. They can stick with what they’re doing and hope for growth. That seems risky based on what we’ve seen and obvious shortcomings.
Iowa sits at 9-8 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten for the first time since McCaffery’s first season (’10-11). Staying with the plan is like running into a wall with no chance it gives way.
Maybe try shortening the 11-man rotation. I get that you want to play everybody that works hard in practice. It’s admirable. It’s also not working.
Play zone almost exclusively so the guys get used to it and become better at it. Man to man isn’t going to work with this roster.
Perhaps these things help. Maybe they don’t. Both something different must be tried. Now.