So Iowa did what we expected them to do yesterday: beat an inferior team decisively. But sometimes it's nice to do what you're expected to do, especially a team that's still figuring out this whole "winning games" business. This was a game where we hoped to see Iowa regain some confidence and show improvement in areas where they had faltered in the back-to-back losses that preceded this game. On that front, mission accomplished, more or less. Fran made one change to the starting lineup, his first of the season: freshman Anthony Clemmons started with Mike Gesell in the backcourt and junior Zach McCabe headed to the bench. Clemmons seemed to add a bit more solidity to the defensive effort as well as some nifty passes (and a team-best 5 assists); I suspect we'll see more of that Gesell-Clemmons backcourt in the future.
Even though the starting lineup shake-up made Iowa a smaller team at the outset of the game, the sort of this game, especially in Iowa's dominant first half (Iowa started out 9-0 and led 31-7 at one point before taking a 44-23 lead into halftime), was the play inside. Iowa shot 29/52 from the floor for the game (56%), which is very good. But they shot a blistering 21/33 from two-point range (64%). That's exceptional shooting. And most of those shots were the result of well-worked offense, with crisp ball movement and sharp passes leading to a lot of very easy looks. Iowa had 22 assists on 29 made field goals; this was just an excellent all-around offensive performance, perhaps their best effort of the season.
Iowa scored 20 points in the paint in the first half on Saturday, led by Melsahn Basabe and Adam Woodbury, the players of the game for Iowa. Mel led all scorers with 17 points (in just 13 minutes) and he went on a 13-0 scoring run in three minutes in the first half that blew the game open. This was the Mel we've wanted to see: full of energy and swagger, aggressively attacking the rim (and not just settling for 15-foot jumpers), and causing havoc in the paint the (the Islanders seemed to resort to just hacking away at him). I'm sure Mel would still rather be starting, but he really seems to be embracing the sixth man role, if only in the "hey, I'll play my ass off and prove I should be starting" sense. Which, hey, is fine by me.
Meanwhile, Adam Woodbury had the best game of his young Hawkeye career, scoring 13 points (on 5/6 shooting) and grabbing five rebounds (and throwing in a very nifty assist, to boot). Woodbury showed off a few nice moves and looked very comfortable in his role. Hell, he even made 3/4 free throws. He's still a freshman and he'll have good games and bad games this year, but this was an encouraging performance.
Roy Devyn Marble had a strange game: he almost led all Iowa players in minutes played (23; only Josh Oglesby played more, with 24), was almost invisible in the first half, but ended with 15 points thanks to a five-minute stretch early in that half where he scored 13 points (including three 3-pointers). He looked utterly unstoppable during that stretch and though Iowa didn't exactly need too much out of Marble in this game, it would be nice if they could get him going a bit more consistently -- they certainly will need him in future games.
As for criticisms... well, there aren't too many when Iowa wins by 29 points and is effectively in cruise control after the first 5-10 minutes of the games, but there were a few areas that could use a bit more attention. The defense, which had been brutalized of late, was better overall and especially in the first half. The Islanders didn't crack double figures until five minutes were left in the first half; part of that was due to plain old bad shooting on their part, but part of it was also due to Iowa's defense, which seemed much tighter than it had been in Blacksburg earlier in the week. The defensive intensity seemed to let up after that, though; it'd be nice to see them maintain that defensive solidity for longer stretches. Iowa also seemed to a little sloppy with the ball -- they were only credited with 13 turnovers, but it seemed like more, especially early in the game. Overall, though, there's not a ton to complain about from this game. Sometimes it's nice to just decisively win the games you're supposed to win.