Champions of Iowa! Iowa Uses Long-Range Shooting to Topple UNI, 80-73

Iowa beat UNI... thanks to long-range shooting?! Yep. It was an aerial assault from Iowa in Saturday's win over UNI.

Well, that wasn't quite how we drew up a potential Iowa win over UNI, was it? Iowa hit a season-best 12 three-pointers, shooting a blistering 48% from beyond the arc, easily Iowa's best performance from long range all season. They also made 26/37 free throws, on 70.3% shooting, also a season-best mark. So yeah: 62 of Iowa's 80 points came from long range or the charity stripe.

I think you can do that math: just 18 Iowa points came from 2-point field goals. Iowa made 4/11 2-point field goals in the first half and 5/13 field goals in the second half. That's less of a concern when you're drilling almost half of your 3s, of course, but things did get a little nervous in the second half when the 3s stopped falling as regularly and Iowa's half-court offense struggled to get good looks. Predictably, with stats like that, UNI throttled Iowa in the paint, outscoring them 48-10. That stat is a little skewed by the easy lay-ups Iowa was conceding late in the game (and more on that in a bit), but even if you lop off 10-12 points as a result, UNI still outscored them 36-10 or so, which is incredible.

The heroes of Iowa's win over Iowa State last week, Anthony Clemmons, Aaron White, and Adam Woodbury (The AAA-Team?), were quiet this week. Clemmons had 14 points and 8 assists (to one turnover) last week, but had 0 points and 0 assists (to two turnovers) in 11 minutes in this game. Aaron White went from a 18 points (on 7/13 shooting) and 7 rebounds last week to just 7 points (on 1/5 shooting), though he did have a team-best 9 rebounds. Adam Woodbury had 9 points (on 4/5 shooting) and 5 rebounds last week, but finished with just 1 point (on 0/3 shooting) and 3 rebounds this week and barely played in the second half. (He played just 9 minutes total.)

Fortunately, this is a deeper Iowa team than in years past, with more offensive threats than we've had in several seasons. Roy Devyn Marble and Mike Gesell picked up the slack -- and then some -- today, erupting for 30 points, a season-high. Marble was 4/9 from beyond the arc and made a whopping 14 of 19 free throws. Gesell finally had a breakthrough shooting performance from deep, swishing 4/6 three-pointers, while also making several clutch free throws for Iowa down the stretch. Marble was able to do a little bit of everything on offense in this game -- draining 3s, almost effortlessly taking his man off the dribble and getting to the hoop, making free throws (14/19). (He did miss five free throws, including a handful late, which could have been costly, but it's hard to moan too much when he made so many free throws.) It's incredibly comforting to know that Iowa has a team that can withstand poor showings from key players.

Iowa also got good minutes from Gabe Olaseni (4 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 12 minutes) and Eric May (2 points, 3 rebounds, and a team-best 7 assists, with no turnovers, in 24 minutes), which was crucial in the win. Depth is something we've marveled at with this Iowa team and it was on full display today. When previously key players like Woodbury, Clemmons, Basabe, and White can all have nondescript games and Iowa can still win fairly comfortably, that's the sign of a team that isn't overly reliant on 1-2 players and that has quality up and down the lineup.

The defense was the other story of the game for Iowa. Iowa held UNI to 18.8% (3/16) shooting from 3-point range, and allowed just 17 free throw attempts, which were two areas where Iowa really needed to have an advantage in order to win this game. UNI did make 54.3% (25/46) of their 2-point field goals, including a never-ending stream of lay-ups late in the game (5 in the last minute alone), so there's clearly some work to be done on the defensive end. That said, the lay-up line UNI was running was clearly by design, too -- Fran gambled that Iowa could give up easy 2s and still win. Giving up 3s or free throws was the only way that Iowa could have allowed UNI to hack into the lead in a substantial way, and Fran was determined not to let them do that. Still, that plan also required Iowa to make free throws at a good clip -- which they did by converting 10/12 in that last minute. And it would have been nice to see UNI have to use up a LITTLE bit more of the clock before scoring; there were 11 possessions in the final minute of the game because UNI was able to score so quickly. (Turnovers were also ghastly for Iowa, at least in the first half; they had 13 in that half, although they were able to reduce that number to just 2 in the second half, for a total of 15 turnovers for the game.)

The win moves Iowa to 9-2 on the season and was their second-straight win avenging a loss from a year ago. It was also their second-straight win over a Top 100 KenPom team (though UNI was just 182nd in RPI heading into today). As we've noted several times, Iowa's cupcake-heavy non-conference slate offered them few chances to boost their resume; they failed on their first two attempts to record a good win (failing to Wichita State in Cancun and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg), but they've succeeded on their last two attempts, beating Iowa State in Iowa City last Friday and knocking off UNI in Des Moines today. Only games with South Carolina State and Coppin State loom before Big Ten play, so Iowa should enter league play at 11-2. They didn't record their 11th win until January 14th last year and finished 8-5 in non-conference play. So yeah: progress!

* And, oh yeah, we're state champions for the first time since 2004-05. Woo! Yes, we didn't -- and won't -- play Drake this year. Tough. We're the only in-state team that's going to have wins against two other in-state teams, ergo: CHAMPIONS OF IOWA.
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