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73-57: In Which We Gather Little From a 16-Point Win

First things first; final score was 73-57, here's the recap. Certainly not a bad showing on the Senior's Night.

As far as what to take from this game, though, is there much? It's plainly obvious that Indiana has a bad, bad basketball team this year, and Crean's not turning that one around without talent and experience (sound familiar?). We don't get to say this very often, but Iowa just plain outclassed Indiana horn to horn, and the Hoosiers really had no chance to win; their last lead of the game was 4-2, and the last time they were within single digits was with 14 minutes left in the game.

That in as much should sound like great news for Iowa--"hey great, we're dominating crap teams again"--but this wasn't an Iowa domination inasmuch as just Indiana taking such poor care of the ball that they had zero chance of outscoring the Hawkeyes. Consider this: the Hawkeyes' effective field goal percentage was 49.0. Indiana's was 46.3. Advantage Hawkeyes, to be sure, but hardly an insurmountable margin at that. And yet, when it comes to overall offensive efficiency, Iowa scored 1.15 points per possession, while Indiana managed 0.89. The disparity, of course, can only come from two factors: offensive rebounding and turnovers. Both affect shots per possession, and Indiana was miserable on both ends.

The Hoosiers gathered just 6 of 25 of their missed shots, which out of context sounds not so bad, but is a pace of 24%; if they kept that up for the entire season, they'd be 7th worst in the entire nation.* As for turnovers, Indiana committed 20 in a 63-possession game. That's plainly inexcusable, especially because Iowa only managed 7 steals. Sure, drawing an offensive foul is sort of like a steal, but it doesn't lead to fast breaks or other quick offensive advantages; Indiana would at least be able to get a defense set, so there is a difference in value.

Iowa, meanwhile, gobbled up 11 of 31 opportunities on the offensive glass for a much more reasonable 35.5 OReb rate. Further, they committed only 11 turnovers--another above-average rate that significantly outpaces their total season performance thus far this year. Basically, Iowa made up for every turnover on the offensive glass. Indiana most certainly did not. And let's not talk about the Hoosiers' abysmal 4-to-20 assist-to-turnover ratio, except to say one word: ew.

As individual performances go, all man of the match talk must focus almost exclusively on Matt Gatens, who had a career game with 25 points. Sure, his other stats were pedestrian--two assists, two rebounds, hooray only one turnover--but the shooting is the most important, since Gatens is clearly the only person on this team even remotely capable of leading the team here on a daily basis. In fact, the most encouraging aspect of this performance is what wasn't a key component.

That would be long-range jumpers: Gatens only went 2-7 there. It's what he did when he put the ball on the floor and dribbled with the intent to score--which regular readers will know we'd been screaming for all season long--that made the difference. Gatens went 6-for-7 from inside the arc, all on mid-range jumpers, and he drew enough fouls to go (a slightly disturbing) 7-10 from the line. That's 25 points on 14 shots from the field, that's a career high, and that's what this team desperately needs from their de facto leader. Does Matt Gatens have what it takes to be a 20-point "go-to guy" next season, or must Lickliter and the team depend on less experienced, more inconsistent players for their minutes? This is the challenge facing Gatens, and '10-'11's success hangs in the balance. No pressure or anything.

Oh, and Andrew Brommer fouled out in 10 minutes. Again. Season stats: 33 points, 29 fouls. Oh, and only road games with Wisconsin and Minnesota loom; the 1:1 ratio is TOTALLY in play. Just something to keep your eyes on.

Really, if there's anything to take from this, it's that Iowa has at least matured into a decent home team. That's not to say that Carver is at all a fearsome road atmosphere for opposing teams or otherwise not in need of a serious restructuring, but that once the stresses of road play are removed, these guys aren't really that bad. Their point differential in BXI home games this season was an aggregate -17; take away the MSU unpleasantness and Iowa outscored their opponents by one whole point in the remaining eight conference home games. There's something there, as long as this seed of confidence isn't watered by the urine of fate again. Err, yet again.  

Of course, on the road, Iowa gets flattened like raccoons staring up at an oncoming semi grille; they've lost by nearly 11 points per game in their seven conference road games thus far. Worse yet, in multiple cases, the final margin was misleadingly low, as Iowa could have been doubled up by a more dickish coach without a gang of walk-on-adoring fans to keep happy. But what's to be expected of a team full of non-elite freshmen and sophomores?

Now, granted, adding even more freshmen to the rotation next year isn't going to solve any problems on its own, but for the first time in his Iowa stint, Lickliter stands to have a good core of upperclassmen who know the system (sorry). Perhaps there'll also be more than just one team in the conference that Iowa should--and does--whip, and perhaps that march back to relevance continues apace  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Or maybe it's just fucking Indiana.



*Interesting note: there's so little that Iowa does well, but one of them is crashing the boards on defense; Iowa holds its opponents to under 30% offensive rebounding on the season. That's good enough for 56th best in the nation. Not bad for a bunch of undersized jumper rats, right?