Iowa 93, Northwestern 67: Pretty Beats Ugly

USA TODAY Sports

Iowa outclassed the Big Ten's worst, sloppiest basketball program at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to move back over .500 in conference play.

I'm not going to sit here and complain too loudly about a 26-point win in conference play, but that was not an especially fun game to watch until the last few minutes. If you went to bed early I'm not mad at you. To be clear: I blame Northwestern for this. Northwestern plays ugly, awful basketball. Northwestern tried to ugly the game up, it succeeded, and it still got whipped. Say it with me now: They're just Northwestern.

How big was the disparity in beauty? With 10 minutes left in the game, Iowa had assists on all but three of its buckets (17 of 20). Meanwhile, at that point Northwestern had three assists. Like, the whole team. They finished with four.

It was interesting to see Iowa run basically a decentralized offense; four players led the Hawkeyes in field goal attempts with seven, and we were one Mike Gesell point away from all five starters hitting double digits. Granted, this was a 30-point victory so the Hawkeyes could have given Josh Oglesby 25 shots and still come away with the victory, but this strategy worked well for Iowa tonight.

I don't expect the borderline communistic distribution of shots to keep up in Iowa's tougher Big Ten games (which is to say: all of them), and part of me wonders if this is why Iowa struggles against elite competition. If Iowa's playing a tough foe, we're likely to see a lot more of Marble and White, the closest things Iowa has to go-to guys. But if that's not Iowa's usual style of ball, if it's not the game the Hawkeyes play all the time, then it's further out of the comfort zone than it needs to be. I don't know, this probably requires a deeper investigation than a quick recap deserves, but it is a thing I am thinking, people.

Great to see Aaron White put up an 18-10-5. I'll even look past the four turnovers if he's making enough passes for five assists. His 10-for-10 FT performance made Iowa's final numbers at the stripe (27-36, an acceptable 75%) look better than they felt. Without White, Iowa was 17-26—a guh-tastic 67%—and missed several free throws down the stretch. Totally irrelevant in a blowout, of course, but for crying out loud, they aren't all blowouts.

Gesell looked fine, and certainly worlds better than Anthony Clemmons who is regressing at a worrying rate. How is he playing so poorly? And if this must keep up, is it time to start looking at giving Marble more minutes at the 1 and feeding Clemmons' minutes to, say, Oglesby? And if you split the minutes at the 1 between those two, do you keep starting Gesell or bring him off the bench? My word, if Clemmons is going to look bad against the worst team in the Big Ten—and it's not like there's that Northwestern roster is hiding some great talent at guard that just messed up Clemmons' day—what the hell are you going to do when the competition gets serious? The Big Ten is loooooaded, and Iowa's schedule is one of the toughest in this toughest conference. The gimmies aren't over yet, but there's only a couple left. Yeah.

Anyway, this all sounds negative, and I don't want it to seem like Iowa played poorly. Iowa played very well. It is nice to see Iowa at essentially a different level of football than the dregs of its conference, considering how recently Iowa was the dregs. Roy Devyn Marble was active on both ends of the court, and his final line of 15 points and six assists (and four steals!) belies what a non-factor he was in Iowa's scoring until late in the game. Again, that's not to say he played poorly; on the contrary, Marble had a great game, even when he wasn't filling the points column of the stat sheet. Iowa didn't need that from him. And he still damn near hit his average.

And hey, how about Adam Woodbury? Gabe Olaseni struggled with foul trouble and general ineffectiveness, so Woody put in work. The ball went through him frequently on offense, and his passing is as on-point as it's ever been. That's a major plus for a team that likes to have so many scoring threats on the court at once. A 7'1" dude distributing the ball from the middle of the key to a team with a significant advantage in athleticism and length is borderline unfair, and it worked well for Iowa.

The rebounding was strong as a whole—I'll take 10 offensive rebounds on 28 opportunities all damn day—but Iowa's effort on the defensive glass waned in the second half. Again, not a huge deal in a blowout, but man, it'll never get easier than this to dominate on the glass for 40 minutes. Still, 10 boards for Melsahn Basabe and White works just fine.

Good win. That's 13-3 and 2-1 on the season. Onward and upward. Anything else any of you saw?

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