It’s games like this last one that make us all remember why Hawkeye fans everywhere always feel like we can’t wait for the next season or the next sport. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch a team with a senior leader like Peter Jok and a boatload of young talent struggle so mightily. It’s not that Iowa has a bad team. It’s not like we expected to be a tournament team when this season started. But after a couple big time wins against quality opponents (I’m looking at you, Purdue), they gave us that most dangerous of emotions: hope. But the inconsistency of youth is a double-edged sword, and Saturday’s game was a tale of Iowa being on the wrong side of that sword. Despite holding Illinois to (approximately) one point per possession, the Hawks were unable to capitalize, turning the ball over on 15 occasions (21.4% of possessions). In a game with that slow of a pace, Iowa could ill-afford to come away empty-handed on one in five opportunities solely because of turnovers. Shooting under 40% from the floor was the second proverbial nail in the coffin, leading to one of Iowa’s rare poor offensive performances this season. All combined, the Hawks really wasted a golden opportunity to pick up a win and maybe some much needed momentum heading into the end of the regular season.
Luckily, Iowa has another home game on Tuesday night against a less than stellar Hoosier team. How Indiana has under-performed so mightily this season is still a mystery to me. Tom Crean has all of the pieces, but those pieces seem to lack any identity. This gives Iowa a chance to try to find their rhythm. I hate to get down on the kids specifically, but with Peter Jok drawing every bit of every opponent’s best defense, Jordan Bohannon needs to find his stroke from deep. Maybe the combination of Jok and Brady Ellingson on the floor together will loosen up perimeter defenses, allowing one or both of these shooters to find a foot or two of space, because lately it seems like teams have been keying in on those two when they are on the floor separately. Admittedly, I’m no expert, but I’d like to see a little experimentation in this game with a lineup of Jok, Ellingson, Tyler Cook, Jordan Bohannon and Nicholas Baer. The presence of two lights out shooters in Jok-Ellingson and the threat of Baer letting loose from distance will keep things a little looser. Though that kind of combination would have a hard time defending the 6’10” Thomas Bryant, the Hoosiers do not have another true center with that kind of size to worry about.
That said, Iowa will need to keep Indiana from second chance opportunities. Indiana focuses on the three and collects a decent amount of those long offensive boards as a result. For that reason, I think Baer really needs to step up like we know he can to corral those rebounds. I think if Iowa can keep Indiana to single digit offensive rebounds while still contesting the three, they have a chance to keep this game close or even steal it away. The computer isn’t so sure Iowa can pull this game off, predicting an Indiana win, 86-81. I think that prediction is pretty spot on. At the time of this writing, Vegas has not released any of the betting information, so I can’t say how the computer compares to the desert just yet.