This game, man. This freaking game.
Wisconsin got off to a hot start and was able to hand Iowa their biggest halftime deficit of the year. The Hawkeyes, down a key player in their rotation, were able to storm back in the second half and even held a 1-point lead with 1:01 left in the game. Of course, it was too good to be true and Iowa failed to close out yet another close game against yet another talented team.
Four Factors in Review
Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.14, Wisconsin 1.22
Saying Wisconsin got off to a hot start was probably an understatement on my part. With about 7 minutes left in the first half, the Badgers were at 1.64 points per possession. No, that's not a typo. They were basically averaging a two point basket every time down the court. Bo's crew almost literally made just about every shot they took in the first half, as they went 5-11 from three point range, Frank Kaminsky dominated down low, Sam Dekker drained threes and killed Iowa on backdoor cuts to the basket, and Bronson Koenig was locked in from 18 feet out and further. Put those events together, and the Badgers orchestrated a 66.07% eFG% in the first 20 minutes of game time. Add in Iowa's 45.45% eFG% and the fact that they only had 2 free throw attempts in the first half, and the Hawkeyes found themselves with their biggest halftime deficit of the year (9 points).
The second half started off much better for Iowa. The defense switched to predominantly zone (something that Fran had applied a bit toward the end of the first half, with some success), and Iowa was able to stifle the sharp-shooting Wisconsin offense for the first ten minutes of the half. In those ten minutes, the Badgers scored only 11 points and shot 5-17 (29.41% eFG%) from the field. The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, opened the first ten minutes of the second half by scoring 23 points and building themselves a 3-point lead. Unfortunately, Wisconsin didn't stay ice cold, and they shot 9-18 (58.33% eFG% thanks to three Josh Gasser three pointers) from the floor and outscored Iowa 28-20 over the final ten minutes.
Although Iowa was able to outshoot (58.06% eFG% to 44.29%) and outscore Wisconsin in the second half (1.31 PPP to 1.19 PPP), it wasn't enough to erase the 9-point first half deficit. And it wasn't enough to nullify Wisconsin's first half 66.07% eFG%, either.
Neither team turned the ball over much in this one. The Badgers saw more of their possessions than usual end in turnovers in the first half, while the Hawkeyes ended up giving the ball away a little more after halftime. If we are talking about the most important turnover of the game, that not-so-desirable distinction probably goes to the Hawkeyes when Devyn Marble was stripped by Frank Kaminsky under the hoop when Iowa was down two with 24 seconds left in the game. That took the game out of Iowa's hands. After that, they had to rely on Wisconsin missing free throws; something they very rarely do.
That being said, Iowa did give the ball away less over the entire 40 minutes of game time. Unfortunately, that didn't end up mattering all that much.
As Adam noted after the game, Iowa sorely missed Melsahn Basabe's rebounding abilities in this game. His 11.9% offensive rebounding rate on the season is 138th in the nation among qualified players according to Kenpom, while his 23.4% defensive rebounding rate comes in at 65th nationally. Not only did Iowa probably lose out on some second chance opportunities with Basabe on the bench, but they also probably allowed more second chance opportunities than usual because of his absence.
In the first half, Iowa and Wisconsin both did well at keeping each other off the offensive glass. In the second half, though, both teams seemed to struggle with this. For Iowa, I think it was a combination of no Basabe and Iowa switching to predominantly zone on defense. One of the problems with the zone defense is that it makes boxing out more of a challenge because the defense is guarding an area, rather than a man. So, when a shot goes up, the defense tends to have more difficulties locating a guy to put a body on, while still trying to watch the ball.
The increased offensive rebounding for both teams in the second half yielded just six second chance points apiece for each team. Really, though, it was the first half, where Wisconsin capitalized on all three of their offensive rebounds to the tune of seven points, that was a big advantage. Iowa, on the other hand, turned five second chance opportunities into only two points. That first half was unquestionably brutal.
Free Throw Rate
Each team came into this game with a reputation for getting to the free throw line at a nice clip and absolutely stymieing their opponents' attempts at drawing fouls. One of them had to give in this one, and that ended up being each team's foul-drawing abilities. There was an increased number of whistles blown in the second half, but Wisconsin had six of their free throw attempts come in the final 24 seconds of the game, inflating their free throw rate a bit. If it wasn't for that, Iowa would have edged the Badgers out in the free throw rate category. But, to the victors go the spoils, so yeah.
Overall: Iowa Won One out of the Four Factors
Devyn Marble and Josh Oglesby were the firepower for the Hawkeyes in this one. Marble was fairly efficient, putting up a 50.24% true shooting percentage (includes free throw shooting) while taking about 31% of Iowa's total shots (also includes free throws). He finished the game with 21 points, 11 assists, and only 2 turnovers. Of course, one of those turnovers came at the worst possible time, but that doesn't take away from how impressive Marble's effort was on Saturday.
As for Oglesby, he was more like Ogles2, as opposed to the usual Ogles3:
Oglesby did most of his damage by catching and shooting from about 18 feet out. He made a living running the baseline and curling upward off of screens usually set by Olaseni. He finished the game with 17 points overall on 8-12 shooting (1-3 from long range), but it was his second half performance of 15 points on 7-9 shooting (1-2 from long range) that was extremely impressive. Josh may have missed basically the first half of the season, but since his return, I think he's shown that he's more than bounced back from a disappointing sophomore campaign.
Besides the two mentioned above, Mike Gesell and Gabe Olaseni gave the Hawkeyes some offensive spark at times. Gabe had a stretch where he scored 6 straight points in the first half for Iowa, and he finished the game with 10 total. Gesell, meanwhile, didn't have his best shooting day, knocking down only 4 of his 10 field goal attempts (1-4 on three point attempts), but he was persistent and relentless. It wasn't the most efficient 10 points you will ever see, but it was 10 points, nonetheless. And, against this Wisconsin offense, Iowa needed all the points they could get.
Now, for players who didn't have the greatest of games. I don't really want to touch the whole Zach McCabe thing. Not even with a one hundred foot pole. All I really want to say, though, is that while he didn't have a good game, I don't think Fran put him in the position to have the greatest of games, either. He probably shouldn't have been starting against a Wisconsin front line with so much more length than him. Either that, or Fran should have switched to a zone defense sooner, because McCabe was outmatched playing man defense against the Badger starters. On his first foul of the game, he and Woodbury switched on a screen and he ended up one-on-one with the 6'11" Frank Kaminsky who overpowered him for the basket and the foul. Later, Sam Dekker beat him easily on a back door cut to the basket for an easy dunk. And in addition to the defensive mismatch, Fran shouldn't have put McCabe in position to take that final shot. Oglesby was the hot hand and is the designated "shooter" on the team, so that play made very little sense. So, yeah, McCabe had a bad game. But I don't think Fran put him in a great position to succeed, either.
As for Aaron White, four points is not enough for Iowa's second best player against a team of Wisconsin's caliber. There's just really not much else to say about that.
Finally, I want to end with one last chart:
That is a chart of Iowa's PPP and PPP allowed by month. What do you notice? Well, the offense has been pretty stable, but the defense has gotten worse in February. Looking at the teams Iowa has played, it's not like they've faced stiffer competition this month. Iowa played Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State in both January and February, while also playing Michigan State in January. So, the schedule is pretty comparable. Sure, the two games against Northwestern's terrible offense depress the January numbers a little, but even so, Iowa held Ohio State's not-so-great offense to 0.98 PPP in January and then gave up 1.10 (at home, nonetheless) in February. The 1.09 PPP allowed in February also includes 1.05 PPP to a pretty terrible Illinois offense, too. I'm not sure what the deal is lately, but I hope Fran and the staff can get it shored up soon, as tournament season is just around the corner.
Overall, Iowa continues to suffer from the close game plague. Kenpom has Iowa as the 318th luckiest team in the nation out of 351 teams, thanks to their struggles in close games this season. So, that's fun...
I'm not going to lie, this loss sucks and I think I'm tired of writing about it. So, on to Minnesota, and let's hope the Hawks can right the ship in back-to-back road games.
Bonus: Team Shot Chart
First half on left, second half on right. Makes outlined in black, while misses have no outline.