This game was ugly. Iowa clearly had the talent advantage, yet a lot of things went wrong that made this game closer than it should have been. Nobody but Peter Jok looked ready to play for the first 17 minutes of this game; Iowa didn't shoot the ball well; they had defensive issues in the second half; and they lost the rebounding category. Now, sure those things suck, but is there any cause for concern?
The big cause for concern is that Iowa's young bench is playing the way we imagined they might before the season started. And that's not a compliment. It would certainly be a lot more helpful if they played as if the calendar had been turned back to January.
However, outside of the bench situation right now, everything else seems fine. Sure, this Minnesota game probably left most of us yelling "WHY" at our television sets, the way it left Fran McCaffery doing so on the sideline. But this Iowa team rarely plays as bad as they did last night. If you look their percentile performance from last night ("G-Score" on the page linked), you will see that only the Drake game beats out this Minnesota win for worst performance of the season. Iowa's overall play has graded out below the 80th percentile just six times this season, and only twice have they finished a game below the 75th percentile.
I would say there is some cause for concern that the young guys may have hit a wall, but let's try not to take too much from this Minnesota game. It was an unusually bad night from a usually good Hawkeye team. This is a team that has played 19 games above the 80th percentile this season, and 14 above the 90th. This Minnesota game was bad, but until I see something else, I will just consider this 61st percentile performance an outlier.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.98, Minnesota 0.80
First Half Possessions: 35
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.19, Minnesota 1.24
Second Half Possessions: 34
Total Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.08, Minnesota 1.02
Total Possessions: 69
|Iowa||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
|Minnesota||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
Outside of Peter Jok, Iowa had an off shooting night from just about everywhere on the court. Considering he and Jok attempted 15 of the team's 19 threes on the night, Iowa's biggest issue from long range was Jarrod Uthoff going 1-7 from outside. And it's not like Minnesota was playing particularly great defense, either. Uthoff had some open looks, but just couldn't connect. It happens.
Then there were Iowa's shooting struggles from up close. It's nice to see Iowa getting more looks near the basket against some of the bad defenses they have seen lately, but they have to finish at the rim better than they have in recent games.
On defense, Minnesota didn't even shoot very well, which makes the final score even more odd. Iowa's length really bothered Minnesota when they got the ball near the rim, and the Gophers struggled to connect on much of anything from downtown.
It's hard for me not to look at these numbers and think that if Iowa had shot closer to their season average of about 70% near the rim and 39% from outside, that we wouldn't be looking at this game in a different light. That scenario would have given Iowa somewhere in the vicinity of 9-12 extra points, and it would have been another double-digit Big Ten win.
Minnesota wasn't a turnover-plagued team coming into this game, and they did a good job of holding onto the ball in this one. Both teams actually finished the game with a very low turnover rate in the 11-12% range. Iowa's length bothered Minnesota when it came to shooting down low, but it didn't seem to bother them when they were trying to bring the ball up the court or pass the ball around in the half-court.
The Gophers were the second team in a row that didn't seem bothered by Iowa's 1-2-2 three-quarter court press, and they looked like they had watched the Indiana game on one occasion the way a player streaked down the middle of the court for a layup. In the half-court, Peter Jok logged Iowa's only two steals of the game, but there were a few more occasions where he tried to gamble in the passing lane and was unsuccessful. Minnesota just did a good job of taking care of the ball.
Of course, Iowa still had one fewer turnover than the Gophers did. They also cashed them in for points more often, outscoring Minnesota 10-7 off of them.
This was Minnesota's best category for a couple of reasons. First, they actually grabbed a third of their offensive rebounds on the night, which was better than the 26% Iowa pulled in, and gave them 3 more scoring opportunities than Iowa had on the night. More important, though, was the fact that Minnesota scored 13 points off of second chance opportunities on the night. Sure, they averaged less than a point per second chance possession off their 14 offensive rebounds, but Iowa was way worse.
The Hawkeyes managed all of 0 second chance points off their 10 offensive rebounds. Is that bad? That sounds bad. I mean, how often can you do that and win a basketball game?
Iowa defeats Minnesota without a 2nd-chance pt (12th time this season a major conference team has done that)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 15, 2016
That's 12 instances out of a somewhere around a thousand or so games that included a major conference team this season? Those are not great odds.
Again, though, it's hard not to look at Iowa's 0 second chance points off of 10 offensive rebounds and think what the outcome of this game would have been if they had scored at least something like 10 points off those opportunities. Some of that certainly would have already been included when we regressed their shooting closer to their season average, but this just goes to show again that Iowa had the opportunity to win this game by the double-digit margin we expected them to. They just didn't execute.
The Hawkeyes have not been held to 0 second chance points in a game all year. This is almost guaranteed to be something we will not see again this season.
Free Throw Rate
Fouling was also a big problem with this game. Not to use the officials as an excuse, but this game was also made ugly by the fact that there was a whistle on almost every possession. There were 47 fouls called between both teams, one player fouled out, and five players finished with 4 fouls. If you look hard enough, you can probably find a foul on just about every play in a basketball game. Of course, referees need to make a judgement on what is and what isn't worth calling. The referees in this game appeared to struggle with that distinction and it really interrupted the flow of this game.
Now, the referees have nothing to do with why Iowa has gone from making almost 74% of their free ones in the non-conference portion of the schedule to shooting just 71% in Big Ten play. And, unfortunately, Iowa made 70% of their free throws last night, so it's not like we can say that was an abberation that won't happen again. It likely will.
Overall: Iowa Won 3 of 4 Factors
Minnesota actually had quite a few guys play well last night, but none of them were any match for Iowa's two stars, who scored 68% of Iowa's points on the night.
Peter Jok was the efficient one (remember when he used to be inefficient?) against Minnesota, scoring 27 points on 8-14 shooting from the field (4-8 from downtown) and 7-8 shooting from the line. There were several times throughout the night when his point total was responsible for just about half of Iowa's offensive output. When Jarrod Uthoff was cold to start the game, Jok had 9 of Iowa's 18 points with 7:48 left before halftime, and 12 of Iowa's 25 with 3:50 left. Uthoff finally caught fire near the end of the half, but Jok and his 12 first half points carried the offense for most of that initial twenty minutes. Even after halftime, Jok exploded out of the locker room by scoring 11 points in a little less than five minutes, which meant he was responsible for 23 of Iowa's 47 points about 25 minutes into the game. Jarrod Uthoff started doing his thing not long after, and Jok backed off a bit the rest of the way, but he still finished with 36% of Iowa's 75 points. His play this year continues to be a revelation.
Jarrod Uthoff, on the other hand, was not efficient; at least, not to start the game. But even with that 0-7 start, Uthoff would finish his night with 24 points, shooting 8-12 from the floor in the final 27 minutes of play. Early on, Uthoff didn't take advantage of his size and skill advantage in the post. Instead, he stayed out on the perimeter and missed his first 4 three-point attempts. Of course, I can't knock him for shooting those. He's got plenty of range and was open, but they just didn't fall. Once he missed his fourth, though, he seemed determined to get on the board by attacking the rim.
But even attacking the rim didn't initially go as well as planned. After missing his fourth three, he drove the basket off the dribble on his next two possessions, and both times he came away with missed layups. Fortunately, he didn't get passive (something he may have done in previous years), and he continued to stay aggressive. Even with one of Minnesota's better defenders in Jordan Murphy guarding him, he knew he still had a three inch height advantage. So he continued to go the the well, and with three minutes left in the first half he put the ball on the floor, went right at Murphy, and finished at the rim on back-to-back possessions.
After those two shots fell, it looked like a light bulb had gone off. He immediately went down on the other end of the court, blocked 2 shots, grabbed the defensive rebound, and finished the half by knocking down a three from beyond NBA range, and by punishing Minnesota inside for defending him with Joey King. Even with his early struggles, Uthoff still tallied 9 points in the final three minutes of the half, and went into the locker room with an additional 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks to add to the box score.
The second half continued to be good to Uthoff, as he scored 15 points, grabbed another 6 rebounds, and blocked 3 more shots. He absolutely dominated Minnesota in the paint in this one, as 11 of his 19 field goal attempts came near the rim, where he converted on 7 of them. His emphasis on trying to score down low also earned him multiple trips to the free throw line. And, overall, he finished with a final stat line of 24 points, 15 rebounds (2 offensive), and 6 blocks. Is that impressive? That seems impressive.
The only other Big Ten players to do that in the last 20 years were Purdue's JaJuan Johnson and Minnesota's Joel Przybilla. That's some good company.
Beyond Uthoff and Jok, Iowa also got 12 assists and 0 turnovers from Mike Gesell, who otherwise had a rough shooting night. Anthony Clemmons was the third-leading scorer, putting in 12 points mostly via layups and by getting to the free throw line. And Ahmad Wagner made the most out of his team-leading 16 minutes off the bench, by hauling in 7 rebounds (4 offensive).
Otherwise, Adam Woodbury had a quiet rebounding and scoring night in just 22 minutes of play, thanks to foul trouble, while the rest of the bench struggled when they saw the court. The only real highlights from Dom Uhl and Nicholas Baer came when the former blocked a shot and took it coast-to-coast for a layup, and when the latter helped Iowa keep the ball twice on the same possession by being his usual relentless self. Otherwise, Iowa's dynamic bench duo combined for 1-6 shooting from the field and 2-4 from the line (all by Uhl) and picked up 5 total fouls in 19 minutes of play.
But, again, bad games happen and this certainly appears to be an outlier in a very good season. Iowa shot below their season average, and managed to convert exactly 0 of their offensive rebounds into second chance points. More often than not, that doesn't happen to this team. Until these things become the norm, I don't think we should be panicking at this point in time.
This a very experienced team, and even if the bench has peaked for the season (which I doubt is the case), this team still has enough veteran players to help bring this season to a spectacular close. Both Maryland and Indiana have already helped Iowa by losing over the past few days, and the Hawkeyes are in a very good position to at least win a share of the Big Ten Championship, if not win it outright.
We knew this wouldn't be easy, and it won't get any easier over the final five games. Next up is a road game against a Penn State team that just beat Indiana in the Bryce Jordan Center a little more than a week ago. After this Minnesota game, I'm hoping this team knows they can't afford to take anyone lightly.