About That Other Sport: Iowa 51, UNI 39

The dominant topic of the day will obviously be the DJK story and that's perfectly understandable -- it's not everyday your all-time leading receiver goes all Tyrone Biggums on you -- but in the meantime it would be a shame if the basketball team's efforts were totally swept under the rug.  Iowa notched an ugly 51-39 over in-state rival UNI tonight.  The win gave Iowa their first back-to-back wins of the season and their first record over .500 since Feb. 22. 2009 (when they were 14-13 after beating Michigan).  And it came over UNI, the best team in the state the last few years.  In fact, if the transitive property means anything (and in sports it does not), Iowa can already lay claim to that "best team in the state" title: they beat UNI, who beat ISU, who beat Drake.  That, of course, means nothing, but they'll have a chance to earn that title for real with upcoming games against Iowa State (Friday) and Drake (Dec. 18).

As noted above (and as the score pretty much gives away), it was a brutally ugly game.  UNI completely imposed their will on the game and played it at the slowed-down pace they preferred -- and Iowa still beat them going away.  As much fun as it is to see Iowa play a more up-tempo style (and it's certainly far more aesthetically pleasing), it's good to know that they can find a way to win when the game is ugly, too.  The stars of the game were Jarryd Cole and Melsahn Basabe; Cole posted a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds, while Basabe led all scorers with 14 points and added 7 rebounds.  And, remarkably, neither man was in foul trouble (3 fouls combined), nor the source of multiple turnovers (1 combined).  They played really well -- the issue now is doing it consistently.  Although as FOTP John Bohnenkamp notes, Basabe is averaging 12 points and 6.4 rebounds in his last four games -- which is pretty consistent for a true freshman who looked fairly lost at the start of the season.

Iowa held a slight advantage in rebounding (39-32) and committed half as many fouls (10 to UNI's 19), but the real key to Iowa's win was defense.  UNI shot 27.3% for the game (20.0% from three-point range) but was even worse than that in the second half -- per the Gazoo, they shot just 17.9% in that half and made only one field goal (and just five points total) in the final 11:21 of the game.  Iowa switched between zone and man-to-man coverages all night and they kept UNI out of rhythm for all but a brief stretch in the first half.  Iowa's own shots weren't falling, either (they shot just 40% and it seemed far worse than that watching the game), but their defense kept UNI from mounting a charge.  So onwards and upwards: next up is a visit from the Fightin' Mayors in the second leg of Iowa's in-state series -- and a chance to get that record two games above .500.

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