Iowa's two superstars got back on track as Northwestern came to town on Sunday afternoon. Outside of the first ten minutes of play, Northwestern never had a chance in this one. The Wildcats started off the game hot from the field, while the Hawkeyes missed a bunch of open looks early on. Despite Northwestern shooting the ball well to begin the game, their lead never got bigger than 4 points, when they took an 18-14 lead off a Tre Demps three-pointer with just under twelve minutes left to play in the half.
Little did Northwestern know, that once Demps hit that shot, the game would soon be all but over.
As soon as that three-pointer hit net, Jarrod Uthoff went down and scored in the paint on the very next possession, opening up what would be the start of a 28-8 Iowa run that would send the Hawkeyes into the locker room up 16 at the break. Uthoff finished the first half with 19 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 steal. Meanwhile, Tre Demps, who had hit 4 of his first 5 field goal attempts (including 2 threes), shot just 1-8 from the floor over the last eleven minutes and change, and missed the next 5 three-point tries he took.
Iowa's offense proved so potent at the end of the first half that Chris Collins decided to switch defenses, moving from a match up zone to a man-to-man defense. He kept with that man defense at the beginning of the second half, and it took Iowa about five minutes of game time to get adjusted, but when they did, it was because Peter Jok decided to score 14 straight points for the Hawkeyes in the span of three minutes. That 14-point outburst included three straight possessions in which Jok knocked down triples from long distance.
Fran decided to pull Jok a few minutes later, as Iowa's lead had ballooned to 25 points. He would finally sit Uthoff for good with around six minutes left in the game, at which point in time, he (23 points) and Jok (26 points) had combined to outscore the entire Northwestern team, 49-47. By the time both were completely out of the game, Iowa was up 29 on the Wildcats.
Northwestern was able to close the gap a bit, thanks to scoring 24 points on the Hawkeye reserves over the final six minutes, which makes the 14-point final margin of victory misleading. This game was a complete beatdown, and Iowa could have won by 40 if they wanted to.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.22, Northwestern 0.75
First Half Possessions: 35
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.16, Northwestern 1.22
Second Half Possessions: 37
Total Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.18, Northwestern 0.99
Total Possessions: 72
|Iowa||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
|Northwestern||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
The thing about this game is that Iowa didn't even play close to a perfect game, and they still should have won by at least 30 points. The Hawkeyes were able to get the ball into the paint quite a bit against Northwestern, but they had some issues finishing near the rim once they got there. To be fair, though, their ability to get the ball inside also helped them get to the line quite a bit on the day, and they were able to take care of business once they got there.
As for the three-pointers, Iowa took only 19 on the day, which is the second-fewest of any Big Ten team against Northwestern this season. I figured they would take at least 20 against Northwestern's awful zone, and they were on track with 12 in the first half, but that seemed to change once Northwestern went predominantly man for the final half of the game. Still, the Hawkeyes bounced back from a terrible outside shooting night against Maryland, and made almost 37% of their tries from long range in this one.
As for Northwestern, they also struggled a bit from up close to the rim. But they were able to put together a final eFG% that was higher than Iowa's due to taking nearly half of their shots from beyond the arc and connecting on about 37% of them. Of course, 4 of those threes came in the final six minutes of the game, when Northwestern outscored Iowa's reserves 24-9 by shooting an astounding 80% from the field.
The Hawkeyes were shooting 50% from the floor and scoring 1.26 points per possession on offense before all the reserves entered the game. Meanwhile, Northwestern was managing just 0.75 points per trip on a 41.5% eFG%. In other words, if we stop the game at 34 minutes, Iowa won all four factors.
Advantage: Northwestern (Technically)
While Iowa technically didn't win the shooting category, they did win the turnover battle like they usually do. The Wildcats didn't seem to have much issue with Iowa's man defense early on, but midway through the first half, Fran started employing the 1-2-2 three-quarter court press and then fell back into the 2-3 zone in the half-court. Almost immediately, once McCaffery made these changes, did Northwestern's offense start to get stagnant. They struggled to get the ball up the court against Iowa's length, and even when they did get it up the floor, quite a bit of time had already run off the clock. On top of struggling just to get the ball past the half-court line, Northwestern also had to figure out how to attack the Iowa zone. And that was an issue.
The Hawkeyes had active hands in the passing lane all day, and were able to come away with 12 steals on 16 Northwestern turnovers. And once Iowa took the ball from Northwestern, they were able to score 24 points off those empty possessions.
On offense, Iowa only lost the ball 10 times on the day. 5 of those 10 turnovers came during the aforementioned garbage time. Of course, we can't blame it all on the reserves, as Anthony Clemmons had a turnover just before coming out of the game, and Dom Uhl also lost it twice. This was the part of the game where Northwestern was able to get a bulk of their 15 points off turnovers.
Whether you stop counting at garbage time or not, though, Iowa won the turnover battle. And that's all that matters.
When it came to offensive rebounding, both teams were nearly identical in the final box score. Each side had 13 offensive boards on the day, but Iowa's 13 were just slightly better because they came on 39 opportunities, as opposed to Northwestern's 40. But Iowa really won this battle by an even bigger margin if we dissect the box score a bit further.
First, on their 13 rebounds, Iowa managed 22 second chance points (1.69 per attempt), while Northwestern scored only 13 (1.00). Secondly, five of Northwestern's offensive rebounds also came in garbage time. So, again, this category probably would have been even more in Iowa's favor had the starters been playing.
Free Throw Rate
Lastly, free throw rate helped Iowa jump out to such a huge lead on Northwestern, despite not shooting the ball as well as they can. Northwestern was called for 27 fouls, compared to just 11 for Iowa on the day, and the Hawkeyes took advantage of their 36 free throw attempts by sinking 28 of them. Peter Jok was the best at drawing contact, finishing the day with 12 attempts, of which he made 10. Dom Uhl got to the line 10 times -- most of which came in garbage time when he was Iowa's best scoring option on the floor, and he kept putting his head down and attacking the basket to create offense.
In total, this was Iowa's highest free throw rate of the season and also their most free throws attempted in a game. It was reminiscent of years past. Maybe there is something to the team's improved free throw rate in Big Ten play, after all.
Overall: Iowa Won 3 of 4 Factors
As I've said multiple times already, Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff were Iowa's best players in this game. Jok's day was statistically a bit better so let's talk about him first.
It took Jok half the game before he really got going against Northwestern, seeing how he only scored four points and attempted three field goals during the entire first half of play. Part of his struggles came from getting inadvertently poked in the eye (again) going for a ball against a Northwestern player. He mentioned in the post-game interview that it was bothering him throughout the first half. But it finally subsided in the second, where Jok played all of nine inutes and firebombed Northwestern for 22 points in less than half of... well, a half.
At one point, Jok scored 14 straight points in the span of just three minutes of game time -- a feat that was reminiscent of the time Aaron White scored 12 in a row in the span of four minutes against Ohio State last season. Jok's streak started with Iowa up 12 points, and finished by putting the Hawkeyes out in front of the Wildcats by 20. During this little outburst, Jok showed off the development in his offensive game. Not only did he connect on 3 threes in a row...
...but he also looked like a more versatile scorer than we are used to seeing, as 5 of the 14 points that didn't come from beyond the three-point line, came at the free throw line after Jok had taken his man off the dribble and attacked the basket.
Jok finished the game with 26 points on 6-10 shooting from the floor (4-7 from downtown) and 10-12 shooting from the free throw line. He also grabbed 5 rebounds, gave out 1 assist, and logged 1 steal. His overall performance was good enough for an adjusted game score per minute of 1.25, which is the most impressive number since Aaron White had an adjusted game score per minute of 1.29 against Hampton in the first game of last season. Technically, Ahmad Wagner has the highest adjusted game score per minute since I started keeping track last season. But his 1.41 number against Gardner-Webb in the first game of this season came in just 9 minutes of play, so I'm discounting it a bit, since Jok's and White's came in 22 and 21 minutes on the court.
But let's stay with Jok for a minute. If he continues to put up performances like this, what exactly is stopping him from making the First Team All-Big Ten roster? Currently, he has to be a lock for at least the Second Team, but the more I think about it, the more I could see he and Jarrod Uthoff both earning First Team honors. Uthoff and Denzel Valentine have to be locks at this point. Then the point guard position probably comes down to Yogi Ferrell or Melo Trimble (Yogi gets my vote), while Diamond Stone or A.J. Hammons probably make it at the big man position. Of course, both Ferrell and Trimble could make the team, and that could leave Jok off the roster. But if not, that leaves a wing position open, and who else deserves it over Jok? Caris LeVert could probably make things interesting, but he continues to miss games due to injury. I like guys like Vince Edwards and Malcolm Hill, but neither possess the combination of quality and quantity that Jok does. If the season ended right now, Iowa could very well have two guys on the First Team All-Big Ten roster, and that is crazy.
Now, while Peter Jok put on a show in the second half, Jarrod Uthoff went to work on Northwestern before intermission. During his 18 first half minutes, Uthoff scored 19 of his 23 total points. He didn't shoot the ball nearly as well in the second half, but he still finished the game making 8 of his 16 shots, which was good for a 56% eFG% because of the two threes that he hit (one of which was from NBA range). Outside of his six points from long range, Uthoff went to work down low on Northwestern, scoring 10 of Iowa's 28 points in the paint, and earning five more at the line. He finished with an overall line of 23 points, 6 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 blocks, and 2 steals in 30 minutes of play. He and Jok were damn good on Sunday afternoon.
After those two guys, Ahmad Wagner probably deserves a bit of attention. His 15 minutes against Northwestern was the most playing time he's seen since Coppin State (18) and UMKC (17), and Wagner did not disappoint. In his time off the bench, Wagner finished with 6 points, 4 rebounds (2 offensive), 3 steals, and an assist. More than anything, Wagner gave Iowa some great energy off the bench for the second game in a row. He may be just a freshman, but he's proving adept at making hustle plays. His blend of size, strength, and speed is also paying dividends on the defensive end, especially in the 1-2-2 three-quarter court press. With the quality of Iowa's competition starting to fall off a bit as the schedule opens up, I'm hoping Ahmad Wagner can continue to get some good minutes and show flashes of potential like he did on Sunday.
Nicholas Baer also gave Iowa a boost off the bench, after going a bit quiet in recent games. He scored 7 points on 3-6 shooting, and made his only three-point attempt. But what a three-point attempt it was. Not only was it decently contested, but Baer knocked down his lone three with 7-footer Alex Olah in his face. Aside from his offense, Baer had just one defensive rebound, and a block that didn't show up in the box score, but I swear I saw it happen. (Ed Note: I definitely remember this block, too. -- Ross) I think it may have come on the missed dunk by Scottie Lindsey where he got T'd up for using colorful language to claim that he was fouled. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
Finally, Anthony Clemmons and Dom Uhl gave Iowa nine and eight points apiece. Clemmons got his points by being aggressive again, as he scored four points on layups and three off of free throws that came from driving to the basket. He also had two steals on the day, but his three turnovers did drop his overall value a bit.
As for Uhl, he did not shoot well from the floor, finishing just 1-5 against Northwestern, and missing his only three-point try. Instead, he got his points by going 6-10 from the line, most of which came in the final six minutes of play. The fact that Iowa was able to get out to such a huge lead was not only beneficial to the freshman who haven't played much this year, but it was also beneficial for Dom Uhl. Seeing as Iowa loses major contributors in Uthoff, Gesell, Clemmons, and Woodbury next year, Dom Uhl is probably going to be Iowa's second scoring option next season, unless someone else emerges out of nowhere. And garbage time was not only a bit of a preview of next year for us fans, but it was good experience for Uhl to see what it's like when he's the one Iowa is relying on for points. Like I said, he didn't have a great day shooting, but the fact that he was willing to put his head down and go earn his way to the foul line when Iowa's offense was struggling is a sign of how far his game has come from last season.
In the end, Iowa took care of business and looked every bit as good as we thought this team should against a struggling Northwestern. The Hawkeyes are now 8-1, and are in a great position to move to 10-1 with upcoming games at home against Penn State and on the road against Illinois. Kenpom gives them an 83% chance of winning both of those games on their way to a big match up against Indiana. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Penn State comes to town on Wednesday, and Iowa will need to focus on taking care of business in that game first.