Thursday night had all the makings of a classic, close-game Iowa loss. The Hawkeyes had a small, late-game lead, but were scoring below a point per possession all night and had missed some crucial free throws down the stretch. Fran, per usual, decided against taking a timeout at the end of regulation to draw up a play for the offense, and instead let his players try and make something happen organically. Of course, nothing good happened for the Hawkeyes at the end of regulation, as Mike Gesell dribbled the ball around for twenty-something seconds, drove to the baseline where he ended up being trapped by the boundary, and decided to reminisce on the old Lickliter days by doing one of those annoying jump passes that ended up deflecting out of bounds off the wrong side of the basket. That was how regulation ended, and we all were dreading overtime.
But then overtime happened and we actually saw some good things. Iowa forced two key turnovers, Peter Jok hit a clutch three-pointer, the Hawkeyes made their free throws down the stretch, and Fran called a late-game timeout that led to a beautiful inbounds play that confused the living hell out of Florida State. But, most importantly, we saw Iowa win a close game.
This was an ugly game, and it was the definition of "back and forth." But on a night when rebounding was an issue, the transition defense wasn't always getting back in time, and their outside shooting was largely not falling, Iowa still found a way to win an ugly game against a good team. And that's nice to see.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.89, Florida State 0.92
First Half Possessions: 35
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.96, Florida State 0.93
Second Half Possessions: 33
Overtime Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.74, Florida State 1.39
Overtime Possessions: 9
Total Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.01, Florida State 0.97
Total Possessions: 77
Iowa's shooting was streaky all night long. The Hawkeyes started off the game by being unable to hit water from a boat, but ended the first half with a 50% eFG% thanks to the final 10 minutes of the half when they scored 21 of their 31 first half points. The second half saw Iowa being pretty cold the whole time, but luckily that ended when overtime kicked in.
The Hawkeyes strategy on the offensive side of the ball for the night could likely be summed up by this tweet:
Iowa loves passing up somewhat contested 3s for open 18-footers. I'd moan but Hawks seems to hit a lot of them
— LukeMeredith (@LukeMeredithAP) December 3, 2015
Iowa did forgo a lot of three-point attempts by using a pump fake, taking one dribble, and then putting up a mid-range jumper against Florida State. In fact, most of Iowa's field goal attempts from the floor were of the long two variety on the night.
|2pt Near Rim
Needless to say, that strategy was probably why Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff had below average shooting nights. But Iowa did help offset that shot selection a little more in the second half, as they made more of a concerted effort to get the ball to the basket and it paid off in the form of earning their way to the free throw line more. Still, though, this was Iowa's lowest percentage of three-point attempts in a game so far this season, and not far off from their highest percentage of long two-point jumper attempts.
Part of Iowa's shot selection looked to be because Florida State was so quick (on top of having a big rim protector like Bojanovsky in the paint). In the same way that Iowa seemed to struggle with Dayton's athleticism, Iowa also had trouble dealing with Florida State's athleticism at times. Not only when Iowa was on offense, but also when they had to play defense. Florida State's athleticism allowed them to get to the basket more often than their counterpart and it also helped them beat the Hawkeyes down the court in transition on more occasions than we would have liked.
|2pt Near Rim
But even with more looks near the rim, Florida State really struggled to convert down low on Wednesday night. And to make matters worse (or better for us), they also couldn't shoot from any type of distance and they didn't really make up for it by earning a lot of trips to the line.
Ultimately, Iowa's interior defense was probably the single biggest factor in them winning this game. Because if the Seminoles had shot a better percentage from up close, Iowa probably would have lost this game.
Turnovers were a big part of why Iowa shot 50% from the field in the first half and still managed to score less than a point per trip down the court. They cut that issue down, however, after halftime, and flipped it on Florida State, who lost the turnover battle for the remainder of the game. Iowa's aggressive defense seemed to work well all night, as 9 of the 14 turnovers they forced on Florida State came on steals. Additionally, Iowa won the points off of turnovers battle all night, but never was it more important than in overtime when Peter Jok had a nice steal out of the 1-2-2 three-quarter court press for an easy breakaway dunk and when Mike Gesell took the ball from Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Iowa was able to hit a few free throws make it a two-possession game. This was a big category for Iowa.
Speaking of big categories for Iowa, offensive rebounding was also a big category for them in this one; although, not always for positive reasons. First of all, yes, Florida State killed Iowa on the offensive glass, but most of that came in the first half when the Seminoles grabbed 40% of their misses. That being said, Iowa did much better in the second half when they actually improved their rebounding on both sides of the ball, and in overtime, when they grabbed 2 of their 3 misses.
The biggest stat from the offensive rebounding factor, however, was second chance points. Because even though Florida State had 19 offensive rebounds (and 7 more scoring opportunities, as a result) they only managed 13 second chance points on the night due to shooting 64% from near the rim. So, yes, Florida State won this category, but Iowa was much improved after halftime and it's not like the Seminoles exactly capitalized on most of their second chances, either.
Advantage: Florida State
Free Throw Rate
After a rough first half of not getting to the foul line, Iowa began to look more like past iterations under McCaffery and started drawing fouls. This was huge because they needed those free throws more in the second half to make up for their 39% shooting from the field.
Of course, Florida State was also able to visit the charity stripe just as often in the second half, which also helped offset their cold shooting from the floor. Even with a draw in the second half, Iowa still earned the win in this category with the better first half and over time (despite the inflation from end-of-game intentional fouls). Now, if Iowa could just make more of their late game free throws...
Overall: Iowa Won 3 of 4 Factors
Since this game was so close, Fran opted to go with a shorter rotation and stick with his starters and upperclassmen for the majority of the game. All five starters played at least 33 minutes on the night, and Dom Uhl (19 minutes) was the only person off the bench to play more than 9.
From a player of the game perspective, Peter Jok was probably Iowa's MVP (Kenpom agrees). Jok scored a career-high 24 points on 23 scoring opportunities (counting free throw possessions). And while that's not wildly efficient, that is still 1.04 points per scoring attempt, and that's good for a guy who has never met a shot he doesn't like. To Jok's credit, though, his lack of fear when it comes to shooting also comes in handy when Iowa needs someone to knock down a clutch three at the end of a game. But aside from his scoring, Jok also threw in 4 steals, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds against FSU, while only turning the ball over twice (!) in 34 minutes of play. This was a great game from him.
After Jok, Adam Woodbury and Jarrod Uthoff were the other two big contributors on the night. They both gave Iowa similar value from an adjusted game score per minute perspective, but Uthoff's might be a little more impressive for the single fact that he held that value for 39 minutes of play to Woodbury's 33. Either way, both of them were important to this Iowa win.
Woodbury earned his second double-double of the year and second in three games, scoring 10 points (3-5 shooting from the field and 5-5 from the line) and hauling in 10 rebounds, 5 of which were of the offensive variety. And on the defensive side of things, despite not blocking any shots, Woody played a big factor in altering Florida State's shots near the rim all night. Uthoff, meanwhile, scored 15 points, but needed 14 field goal tries and 5 attempts from the free throw line to do so. From an efficiency perspective, that is 0.92 points per scoring attempt and that is way below his season average of 1.2 and is easily his worst performance of the season. But even with his off shooting night, Uthoff still contributed in plenty of other ways. In his 39 minutes on the court, Jarrod grabbed 8 rebounds (3 offensive), dished out 3 assists, and blocked 4 shots. I know that we, as Iowa fans, understand how good of a shot-blocker that he is, but I'm not so sure the rest of the country or even conference know it. He has been in the national top 150 in blocks, according to Kenpom, over the last couple seasons, but he is currently #48 in the country as a senior. Dude is good, you guys.
Anthony Clemmons should also get some credit for this game, as he gave the Hawks 10 points and 4 assists. He did have 3 turnovers, but he consistently penetrated the defense in the second half and finished at the rim or found open guys.
Lastly, there was Mike Gesell and Dom Uhl. The latter gave Iowa 6 points and 5 rebounds in 19 minutes of play, while the former scored 10 points along with 3 assists. Gesell was a bit off his game against Florida State, though. He was able to get inside the defense for 4 layup attempts on the night, but was able to only convert among the trees on 2 of them. Additionally, he turned the ball over 4 times, which was uncharacteristic for him. However, he did make some key shots and his assist total probably would have been higher if Iowa hadn't been so off from the field in the second half.
Lastly, a few bullet points to finish this off.
- Peter Jok is clearly embracing his new role as Iowa's second scorer this season. He has always been a high usage player, but with Aaron White gone this season, Jok's usage rate on offense has gone up from 21-22% in past seasons to 29% so far this year. For reference, Kenpom considers anyone over 28% a "go-to guy", and Iowa has not had anyone do that since a player that I will not mention did it in 2005. Not even Roy Devyn Marble or even 2007 Adam Haluska "used" this many possessions on offense. Although, Haluska just missed the 28% cutoff with a 27.9% usage rate. Crazy.
- Even with an off night against Florida State, Kenpom still has Mike Gesell as #27 in the nation when it comes to assist rate.
- Additionally, Adam Woodbury actually has the best offensive rating out of anyone on the team who has played major minutes. His 130.3 is 105th in the nation, according to Kenpom, and only second to Okey Ukah, who has played all of 6 minutes this season.
- If you are wondering how valuable Iowa's experience is this season, the five upperclassmen have so far contributed 4.3 win shares. Iowa has, of course, won 5 games. That's a lot of value from Iowa's experienced guys. Out of those 4.3, Uthoff has contributed 1.3, Woodbury 1, Gesell 0.9, Jok 0.6, and Clemmons 0.5. If this pace keeps up (which it won't for everyone), Uthoff is on track for a 6-7 win season (Aaron White had 7.2 last season), Woodbury and Gesell are on track for around 5 win seasons (living up to their 4 star recruiting rating), and Jok and Clemmons would be on pace for 2-3 win seasons. Those would be career highs for everyone. Again, it's early, but still impressive.
So now that Iowa has clinched the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the good guys, the competition eases up a bit for the next few games. Sure, Western Illinois beat Wisconsin, so Iowa shouldn't take them lightly, but they did lose by 30 to Creighton and rank just 171st in the nation, according to Kenpom. So, hopefully Iowa can take care of business against cupcakes and let the young guys get some experience. Because a week from today Iowa heads to Ames to play what is probably their best competition yet. Let's hope they are ready.