It would be a shame if the story of this game becomes: "Refs screw over Iowa, cost Hawks game", because there was so much else positive going on for the team prior to the moment Mount Franitubo went off with 9:45 left in the second half. In almost every area where Iowa had been struggling, they improved:
- Shooting: whereas Iowa had struggled to even reach Allen Iverson-esque 40% effective field goal percentages in some games, in this game they finished with a 51.8% number, and that includes a fair amount of chucking at the end of the game.
- Rebounding: keeping opponents off the boards, especially when Iowa was on defense, had been a major problem against teams like Creighton and Campbell. Against the Panthers, Iowa actually won the battle on the glass, rating higher on offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. UNI wound up with only three offensive rebounds in 27 opportunities, so, yeah, Iowa locked things down here.
- Patience: Iowa had gotten into some bad habits in terms of throwing up shots when they weren't there early in the shot clock, but they displayed remarkable patience in this game, waiting for better shots to develop or teammates to come wide open. This obviously feeds into the improved shooting.
- Basabe: Melsahn Basabe, previously seen doing his best Claude Rains impression, was at least a recognizable basketball player, especially in the first half. He still only finished with eight points and six rebounds, but his jump shot was on and he was active on defense.
Post-script on Marble
I didn't mention it earlier, but Devyn Marble played a fantastic game, on both ends of the court. He played the point for 37 minutes and had only two turnovers to go along with four assists, and created on offense again and again for the Hawks. Most impressive was his defense. He's officially credited with two steals, but seemed to have his hand on several other balls. He not only disrupted Northern Iowa's offense, he got out on the break and finished.
One of the under-reported stories of the year so far is the ineffectiveness of Bryce Cartwright, and I wonder how much his injury has slowed him down. The problem seems to be that Cartwright is effective only when he has the ball, but too often this year he has turned into a by-stander and spot up shooter on offense. That is not his strength. So having Marble in meant that the point guard was both more of a threat to score himself and more of a threat as an off-the-ball shooter, which seemed to free things up for the Hawks. I'm not saying Marble should be the starting point guard, but that Iowa needs Cartwright to be healthy and become the dynamic, creating player he was last year.