It wasn't a complete turnaround, but Iowa showed shades of its old (i.e. better) self Saturday night against Michigan. Iowa's defense returned to early season levels, holding a very efficient Michigan team to 0.87 points per possession (PPP) on a 42% eFG% on their home court. Meanwhile, Iowa's offense was much more perimeter-oriented than it has been in the past month, and Jarrod Uthoff looked like the Wooden Award candidate he was about a month ago. More importantly, though, Iowa scored enough points early in the game that they were able to withstand a late run by Michigan in the final ten minutes. And, if you remember, that was one of the keys to Iowa's success earlier this season.
Now, not everything was back to being outstanding. The biggest issue for Iowa in this game -- outside of shooting just 29% from long range, continuing a streak of less-than-stellar performances from out there -- was the fact that Iowa's offense broke down, yet again, for a prolonged amount of time at the end of the game. After Peter Jok made a layup with 10:13 left in the game, Iowa then went ten consecutive possessions without scoring. Over those ten possessions, the Hawkeyes missed all 6 field goal attempts, Anthony Clemmons missed a pair of free throws, and Iowa turned it over three straight times down the court.
This slump was brought on by the sudden change in defenses by Michigan, as they moved to their 1-3-1 zone. Despite having beat Michigan's 1-3-1 back in January, when they were able to get the ball into the corner and knock down threes, the Hawkeyes struggled to even get the ball up to the three-point line, let alone exploit the weakness in the corner of the zone. This led to long, aimless possessions that usually ended in a contested long jumper or a deflected pass turnover. By the time Mike Gesell finally broke the cold snap, six minutes had come off the clock and Michigan had gone on a 10-0 run. What had been a 15-point lead had turned into a 5-point one. That is, until Gesell converted a layup in the paint.
Thankfully, Iowa didn't continue to look like basketball was a foreign concept on offense. Instead, Anthony Clemmons made a clutch three-pointer, Jarrod Uthoff made a heady play to sprint to the basket off an inbounds play at mid-court and finish through contact, and Iowa made 5 of their final 6 free throws to close the game.
If we take out those horrendous ten possessions in which Iowa almost choked away the game, the Hawkeyes' final 1.02 PPP total increases to 1.18. Of course, that's not really a fair way to break things down; the Hawkeyes almost certainly wouldn't have scored on all of those possessions. But if they scored something like 10-12 points on five of those, the offensive output would have been right around that 1.15 January rate. Still, it's a little worrying that this team had that ten possession spell. On the other hand, it was nice to see them regain their composure and close out the game.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.03, Michigan 0.86
First Half Possessions: 35
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.01, Michigan 0.89
Second Half Possessions: 35
Total Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.02, Michigan 0.87
Total Possessions: 70
(Source: ESPN. Their new box score and play-by-play layouts suck, but I do love the added shot charts. By the way, black dots are made field goals for Iowa. The blue dots are made field goals for Michigan.)
|Iowa||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
|Michigan||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG||FT|
Coming into this game, shooting was obviously the most important category. It is every night, of course, but playing on the road against a Michigan team that takes and makes a ton of threes put even more pressure on Iowa to have their best shooting night in a while -- and they did.
The game was played at a pace of 70 possessions, which is right on Iowa's average for the season, but 3 more than Michigan's norm, and 4 more if you look at just Big Ten games this season. And this pace was beneficial for Iowa, as it allowed them to get up a lot of quick, open shots, rather than get bogged down in their half-court offense, the way they have in recent games. It was also beneficial for Iowa because Michigan didn't take the air out of the ball by condensing the number of possessions, making each attempt at scoring that much more important.
Now, the most interesting aspect about Iowa's shooting was that they took a three-point heavy approach that they had relied on for the first half or so of the season. They didn't shoot the ball very well from outside, but they did outshoot Michigan, which is all that counts there. However, Iowa's biggest success came on the fact that they actually made their shots near the rim on Saturday, and that Jarrod Uthoff's two-point jumpers started falling again for the first time in a while. Michigan shot a pretty good percentage from up close, but those were only 30% of their attempts, and they struggled mightily on any try away from the rim.
And all of that was good enough to help Iowa win the shooting category for the first time since the Minnesota game, and log an eFG% north of 50% for the first time in five games. If you have any questions about which category is the most important for Iowa to win in any game, look no further than this table:
|Four Factors Won||Win% When Winning||Win% When Losing or Tied|
|Off. Reb. Rate||0.714||0.688|
|Free Throw Rate||0.750||0.600|
Along with shooting, we also knew coming into this game that turnovers would likely be the second most important factor in this contest, as Michigan's offense relied heavily on a combination of hot shooting and limiting turnovers. And that also proved true.
Michigan didn't finish with an outrageous amount of turnovers, though. Their 11 mistakes in 70 possessions came out to only a 16% turnover rate, which was still better than the 18% Division I average. However, those 11 mistakes were three more than Iowa made, and the Hawkeyes not only won the turnover battle in each half, but they outscored Michigan 12-7 off of turnovers for the game.
Of course, three of Iowa's turnovers happened during that maddening ten wasted possession collapse. So, again, outside of that whole almost-catastrophic offensive meltdown, Iowa actually held onto the ball really damn well for 34 minutes of the game.
Despite being horrible on the offensive glass this season, offensive rebounding helped Michigan not get blown out of this game. Iowa managed only 4 offensive rebounds and 4 second chance points on the night, while Michigan scored 15 points off of 12 second chances. However, while 12 offensive rebounds may seem like quite a bit, this is where offensive rebounding rate is a better stat than just raw offensive rebounding totals. That's because Michigan came away with only 12 of the 43 offensive rebound opportunities they had on the night, which means that out of 41 missed field goal attempts and 2 free throws that were eligible to be rebounded, Iowa came away with 31 of those. That's only 28% for Michigan, which is below the Division I average of 29.8%. Meanwhile, that's 72%, or almost 3 out of every 4 chances for a defensive rebound for Iowa. And that's good.
So yes, Iowa was bad on the offensive glass and Michigan averaged 1.25 points per second chance opportunity. But Adam Woodbury's 10 and Jarrod Uthoff's 6 defensive rebounds actually helped limit Michigan to a slightly below average offensive rebound total. And that was good enough to help win the game.
Free Throw Rate
This category played a small role in the outcome of this game, as both teams bombed away from deep, leading to very few fouls being called and translating into very few trips to the line. However, out of the small amount of free throws that were attempted, Michigan missing 5 of their 12 for the game and Iowa making 5 of their last 6 in crunch time was very important.
In other words, Michigan may have had more trips to the line, but Iowa took better advantage of their trips.
Overall: Iowa Won 2 of 4 Factors
The adjusted game score chart is pretty fitting for this game, as Jarrod Uthoff was by far the the best player on the court Saturday night. He finished with a final line of 29 points on 11-19 shooting (4-10 from three), 7 rebounds, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. Most importantly, though, Uthoff's jump shot returned from a long, long vacation:
His 68% eFG% against Michigan was the first time since the final day of January that the former front-runner for Big Ten Player of the Year has shot better than 46% from the field. This was an excellent final performance for Big Ten voters to take into consideration before making their decision on the award, but unfortunately, it's probably too late for Uthoff to recover from his February decline. However, if Uthoff's jump shot (both long two and three-point varieties) is back to finish the season, that would be excellent news as tournament season starts this week.
Outside of Uthoff, the rest of the seniors played important roles in this road victory. Mike Gesell scored 6 points and logged 2 steals, including one that led to a breakaway slam. But more importantly he was back to his old facilitating ways against Michigan, finishing the game with 11 assists and just 1 turnover. That puts him at 186 assists on the year, and just 7 shy of tying Andre Woolridge's single-season record at Iowa. Gesell just needs one really good game, or two pretty normal games for him to break the record. So, unless Iowa's offense goes into a deep coma and they only manage to play two more games for the rest of the season, I would expect Mike to break that record.
Anthony Clemmons was also a big part of the offense in this one, as he again gave Iowa double-digit points, scoring 12 against the Wolverines. The best part about his 12 points, though, was the fact that he needed only 7 field goal attempts and 2 free throw tries to do so. Clemmons continued to attack opposing defenses off the dribble, but he also converted on 2 of his 3 tries from long range, including a huge one in the final minutes of the game to stave off a Michigan comeback. Clemmons' efficient scoring was a welcome sight, seeing how Peter Jok struggled to find a rhythm from the floor.
Finally, Adam Woodbury finished 1-point shy of a double-double, scoring 9 points and grabbing 11 rebounds (10 defensive) on the night. He gave Iowa some offense in the pick and roll and by showing some nifty footwork down low, but he also played his usual solid defense. Most importantly, though, he continued to be an absolute beast on the glass, and was important to keeping Michigan from getting more than just 12 offensive rebounds.
All-in-all, this victory was a welcome sight. Breaking the losing streak in any fashion possible was important, but the fact that Iowa's defense held Michigan's offense to 0.87 PPP on their home floor is impressive, and hopefully a sign of things to come. Also important was the fact that Iowa's offense looked better than it had in a while. Mike Gesell was handing out assists again, Jarrod Uthoff was making jump shots, and Iowa didn't blow a late game lead. They almost did, of course, but at this point, all I care about is that they didn't.
The Big Ten Tournament officially starts this Wednesday, but Iowa doesn't play until Thursday afternoon. They get the winner of the Illinois/Minnesota game, which, barring a miracle, likely means they will be facing Illinois for the second time this season. I think either team is a very favorable match up for the Hawkeyes, but they will need to play more like they did against Michigan, and less like they did for most of February. Hopefully this final game of the regular season is a sign of brighter days to come.