December hasn't been particularly kind to the Hawkeyes from an offensive standpoint. Before going into Columbus on Tuesday afternoon, Iowa was averaging only about 1 point per possession (PPP) and shooting terribly from the floor, so it's hard not to be surprised when we saw the exact opposite against Ohio State. Iowa came out of the gate red hot, and scored on their first eight possessions to start the game. They finished the first half with a crazy 1.41 PPP and held a 12-point lead.
The second half was a bit different. Iowa had their usual slow after-halftime start, but it wasn't nearly as bad as it has been in previous games this season. This time they were only outscored 11-14 in the first ten minutes of the second half, and then 17-20 in the final then minutes. So, yes, Ohio State outscored Iowa in the final twenty minutes. But, thanks to that 12-point first half lead, the Hawkeyes held on for a 6-point victory.
But even though the offense cooled off significantly in the second half, I don't take this as a lucky win that Iowa was able to hold on to. Rather, the Hawks withstood a comeback attempt by a talented team on the road. And, more importantly, they made plays when they had to at the end of the game. That's what being a winning team is about; making plays when they matter, and Iowa did that on Tuesday.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.41, Ohio State 1.02
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.93, Ohio State 1.13
Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.17, Ohio State 1.07
Everything that I said in the preview for this game that Iowa needed to do -- the same things I wasn't sure they could do on offense -- Iowa did. Exploit the baseline weakness in the zone? Check. Beat the zone down the court in transition a handful of times? Check and check. Knock down open threes? Check, check, and check. Grab offensive rebounds for second chance points? Check, check, che... well, you get the picture.
First and foremost, Iowa took advantage of the chink in the armor of the 2-3 zone that is the baseline. The Hawkeyes did an excellent job of getting the ball into the middle of the zone, sucking up the back line of the defense, and then finding Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni on the baseline for high-percentage dunks and layups. Aaron White is the perfect player to have against a zone because he thrives when he gets the ball at the rim all game long, and that's what happened in this one. He was also able to beat the Ohio State defense down the court and get high-percentage looks at the basket, making it so Iowa wouldn't need to worry about beating the zone on some possessions.
Additionally, the Hawkeyes were also regularly able to penetrate the zone and use great ball rotation to get open looks from downtown, going 8-22 (36.4%) from out there. Jarrod Uthoff was the main beneficiary, making 4 threes on the day, but Josh Oglesby also shot an encouraging 2-5 from long distance. And even when they weren't knocking down their shots, Iowa was pulling down offensive rebounds, helping to extend their possessions.
In the first half, Iowa was able to execute that game plan almost to perfection. The second half saw them settle for jump shots early on, but they were able to do what they needed to when it counted most. More importantly, though, I was very happy with Iowa's shot selection on the day. They made a concerted effort to attack the rim on the baseline, and when that wasn't there, they moved the ball around for a look at an open three.
(Shot Analytics doesn't update their shot charts until mid-morning of the next day. So, because this was written Tuesday night, I am using the CBS Sports shot chart, which can be found here.)
Basically, Iowa's shot selection was great against Ohio State. They minimized their long twos, and their eFG% was better off for it. They took what the zone gave them, and they won because of it. Hopefully this more efficient shot selection will continue against the teams that play man-to-man defense, too.
As for Ohio State, they also started by shooting well from the floor in the first half, only to cool off significantly after halftime. A big part of that was the fact that the Buckeyes' star player, D'Angelo Russell, went 4-16 from the field and only 1-9 in the second half. 8 of his 16 field goal attempts came from beyond the arc, and he only made 1 of those tries. The fact that the biggest name in this game was responsible for about 28% of Ohio State's scoring attempts, but only put up a 36% TS%, played a big part in Iowa coming away with a win in this one.
Iowa did an exceptional job of not falling victim to Ohio State's turnover-forcing ways for most of the game. In the first 35 minutes of game time, the Hawkeyes only handed the ball to the Buckeyes nine times. That's good. In the final 5 minutes of play, Iowa turned the ball over five times, and almost cost themselves the game. That's bad. The turnover battle was essentially even and a non-factor for the majority of the game, but those final 5 turnovers were huge and just about gave the game away. They didn't, though. And, despite Ohio State winning this category, the Hawkeyes still won the game.
Advantage: Ohio State
Another issue with playing a 2-3 zone on a regular basis, is the fact that it can make hauling in defensive rebounds a problem. The fact that you are defending an area on the floor and not a man, can be an issue when it comes to locating a body to box out. And that was a struggle for Ohio State all game long. The Hawkeyes didn't just ride a 59% eFG% to their 1.41 PPP total in the first half, but they also sucked up 50% of their misses to boot. Anytime you complete a feat like that, you should be up by double-digits, assuming your defense isn't absolutely porous; and that was the case for Iowa. Ohio State was shooting the ball pretty well, but they weren't getting to the free throw line and they weren't pulling down their misses. Iowa was, and they were up 12 at the half because of it.
In the second half, Ohio State started cleaning up their missed shots at a higher rate, which helped make up for the fact that they couldn't make much from the field. Luckily, though, Iowa continued to rebound their missed shots at a high rate, which also made up for the fact that they weren't draining their field goal attempts at quite the same rate they were before intermission.
Overall, dominating the offensive glass for two halves is more important than dominating it for just one. That's what Iowa did, and that's why they won this category.
Free Throw Rate
Outside of the improved shooting performance, Iowa's foul-drawing abilities in this game was the most welcoming sight to see. This year's team hasn't been getting to the foul line as much as other McCaffery-coached Iowa teams of the past, but this game was different thanks to their determination to attack the rim. Since Iowa was making a concerted effort on offense to work the ball down low on the baseline, rather than settling for contested jump shots, they also saw an increase in the amount of times they visited the charity stripe.
On a related note, Iowa was able to get D'Angelo Russell in foul trouble early on, and he picked up his fourth foul with 13 minutes left in the game. He didn't stay out particularly long since Thad Matta knew he couldn't keep him off the court too long, but any amount of time that Russell was on the bench was most likely a plus for the Hawkeyes.
As for Ohio State, they weren't particularly good at getting to the free throw line before this game, and they continued that tendency during this game. The Buckeyes made their way to the line a bit more in the second half, but Iowa had the better free throw rate in both halves.
Overall: Iowa Won 3 Out of the 4 Factors
Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff are the best players on this team, and they left little doubt about that after this game. Uthoff probably had the slightly better game, as he scored 18 points on about 3 fewer scoring attempts and put up almost the same stat line as White in one fewer minute on the court. He also came up with two clutch baskets near the end of regulation. Uthoff finished with an adjusted game score of 22.3, which outside of White's 20.3, blew everyone else out of the water. For Ohio State, Sam Thompson was the closest with a 15.2. And if we adjust for minutes played, Uthoff's 0.62 and White's 0.55 adjusted game score per minute were quite a bit higher than the Ohio State high (among players who played significant minutes) of 0.44 by Kam WIlliams (Sam Thompson finished with 0.43). To put it more succinctly, Jarrod Uthoff and Aaron White were by far the best players on the court Tuesday afternoon.
Uthoff's final box score line included 18 points on 6-11 shooting (4-6 from three point range), 7 rebounds (3 offensive), 5 assists, and 1 block. White's was almost identical, putting up 18 points on 5-10 shooting from the floor and 8-10 from the free throw line, 9 rebounds (3 offensive), 2 assists, and 1 block. Uthoff did most of his damage from beyond the three point line, while White abused Ohio State on the baseline and at the free throw line. Both players stuck to their strengths, and it paid off in a big way.
Outside of the big two, Josh Oglesby came through in a big way off the bench. He ended up with 8 points on the day, going 2-5 on his three point attempts and draining a clutch pull up jumper in the paint with a few minutes left in the game. Gabe Olaseni also had 8 points and 4 rebounds in only 18 minutes, while Mike Gesell and Peter Jok also scored 7 points in just 22 and 16 minutes on the court, respectively.
All in all, Iowa got the type of production from their two big players that they desperately needed, while the rest of the team was able to do what was required of them in order to come away with a solid road victory.
To the bullet points!
- The end of the game scared the ever-loving hell out of me, and I don't doubt the most pessimistic among us were sure the Hawkeyes were going to blow it. Luckily, Iowa responded to Ohio State's late push. Josh Oglesby made a nice dribble-drive jump shot in the lane, followed by Jarrod Uthoff knocking down an open look from three and then a hitting a contested fade away jumper. Uthoff is clearly the best shooter from any kind of distance on this team, and I think this game left no doubt that he should be the one getting any the end-of-half or end-of-game shot attempt that isn't at the rim.
- I can't reiterate enough just how happy I was watching Iowa dissect the Ohio State zone the way they did for a good portion of this game. They did it so well that Thad Matta decided to switch to man-to-man defense at the very end. It seemed to confuse Iowa briefly, but Jarrod Uthoff nailing that contested jumper made the Ohio State defensive switch a non-issue.
- I also want to take a little time to praise Fran Fraschilla for not being a terrible basketball commentator. All throughout the game Fraschilla frequently talked about how Iowa was abusing the back line of Ohio State's zone, pointed out Iowa's impeccable ball movement, complained when Iowa started settling for long, contested jump shots instead of attacking the rim, and he even mentioned at halftime that Iowa was rebounding 50% of their missed shots. Hell, he even gave the viewers an idea of what the national average on that stat was so they had a baseline to compare Iowa's performance to. That made the nerd in me absolutely ecstatic. Sure, he threw in the usual talking points, like how Fran's nickname in college was "White Magic." Still, though, it's not often we get someone who can drop that much knowldege during a telecast, and it was sure a hell of a lot better than listening to Dick Vitale defend Roy Willams' "integrity" when it comes to educating young collegiate athletes.
- After this win I imagine that some folks will try to diminish it by saying that Ohio State was overrated. And, while I would agree that they were probably a bit overrated after playing a weak non-conference schedule, these Buckeyes are still a very good team with a lot of young talent on the roster. I think this was a very nice road win for our beloved Hawkeyes, and I wouldn't be surprised if Ohio State was a very scary team come March.
- This was a game in which Iowa finally lived up to their offensive potential against a non-terrible team. December has been a terrible month for the offense, as Uthoff has been a bit off, Woodbury has struggled, and Oglesby has continued to slump. Two of those three stepped up against Ohio State and the offense looked much better, as a result. This team is capable of playing this well on offense on a regular basis if they continue to put an emphasis on higher percentage shots and avoiding contested jumpers. Will this be a turning point in the season or just a one game apparition? That will be a key question for their success as the season goes on.
- Aaron White had 4 dunks against Ohio State, which brings him up to 25 on the year. Here is the updated Dunk-O-Meter:
|Aaron White Dunk-O-Meter||Freshman||Sophomore||Junior||Senior||Career|
|Field Goals Made||136||140||143||65||484|
- White also joined some nice company after this game:
Aaron White surpassed Greg Brunner & Don Nelson, and tied Andre Woolridge for 11th in Iowa career scoring with today's 18-point effort.— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) December 30, 2014
- Gabe Olaseni did not log a blocked shot against Ohio State, marking only the second game all year that he has not logged one. Don't worry. He still has the 14th best blocked shot rate in the nation, according to Kenpom.
- Speaking of Kenpom, this victory on the road against Ohio State, moved Iowa from #41 in the nation up to #33. Their offense also jumped from #112 to #67. His model's updated projection for Iowa is now 20-11 on the year, and 11-7 in Big Ten play.
That's enough for now. The Hawkeyes get almost a week off to enjoy a nice road victory and prepare for the Cornhuskers of Nebraska to invade Iowa City. Nebraska's offense is pretty awful, but their defense has the ability to keep them in the game. If Iowa's offense performs like they did against Ohio State, they could come away with an easy double-digit victory. If it doesn't, we could be in for another slow-tempo, low-scoring affair, like we saw against Northern Iowa. Let's go ahead and just hope for the former.