There are no moral victories for this team, but it's hard to be mad about this performance. Only having Aaron White for 7 minutes, especially on the road, was a major blow to the Hawkeyes' win probability. But this team didn't just roll over and let Purdue run them over. Instead, just when Purdue took a 10 point lead into halftime, and it seemed as if things might be snowballing out of control, Iowa stuck to their game plan in the second half and almost won the game. And as much as losing sucks, under these circumstances, the fight the team showed was quite admirable.
In the first half, Iowa was clearly bothered by Purdue's size down low. Adam Woodbury got in quick foul trouble and Gabe Olaseni initially was getting bullied on defense by Purdue's ogres and getting hacked, but not getting the calls on the offensive end of the court. Fran finally started throwing a 2-3 zone at the Boilers, and things started to go better on the defensive end of the court, but Iowa's offense was still rattled.
Then the second half happened, and Iowa finally looked like they understood what they needed to do against this Purdue team. They continued to play mostly zone defense after halftime, and the offense finally started to push the issue of getting the ball to the rim. This resulted in an increased free throw rate and it also led to 16 points in the paint, which was 8 more than they had before the break. Sticking to this game plan got the Hawkeyes back in the game, and even allowed them to take the lead with a little over a minute left to play. Unfortunately, it was a timely clutch three pointer made by a guy who is not known for shooting them that sealed Iowa's fate on Saturday afternoon.
Overall, the Hawkeyes won the second half, but it wasn't enough to overcome losing the first 20 minutes.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.79, Purdue 1.12
First Half Possessions: 30
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.29, Purdue 1.09
Second Half Possessions: 30
Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.04, Purdue 1.10
To be brutally honest, once Aaron White left the game, this Iowa team initially looked scared on offense. They seemed to be all too happy to settle for long jump shots, and when they went inside they weren't drawing fouls, so they were getting frustrated down low. The second half looked like a different team, though, as Gabe Olaseni started working the ball to the rim instead of attempting turnaround jumpers over 7-foot defenders and Mike Gesell started carving up the Purdue defense in the lane.
And while the second half strategy was great to see -- not only because Iowa was scoring much more down low, but because they were also drawing fouls -- Iowa ultimately settled for too many damn contested jumpers on the day.
(Shot charts courtesy of Shot Analytics.)
By my count, Iowa had 20 field goal attempts near the rim (31.2%), 27 long two point jumpers (42.2%), and 17 three point attempts (26.6%) on the day. 13 of those 27 long twos came from Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok, both of whom, are getting way too comfortable settling for inefficient shots.
For some perspective, Uthoff and Jok are hitting 32% and 30% of their long twos (by my count) on the year, respectively. Meanwhile, from three point range, Uthoff is a 37% shooter and Jok is a 31% shooter. It's impossible to totally cut these shots out, but it's not that hard to make a conscious decision to run a couple feet extra off of a screen to make the attempt a three, rather than a long two. Seriously, the extra point makes a huge difference.
Ultimately, though, I blame Fran for this because he obviously isn't addressing this with them or they wouldn't be shooting so many of them this year. I mean, look at Uthoff compared to last year:
The increase in threes is good, considering Uthoff is the best shooter on the team. The problem is that his increase in threes has led to a decrease in shots near the rim, rather than taking away from his long twos. Looking at this, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Uthoff's offensive efficiency and shooting numbers are all down this season. Yes, part of that stems from taking more shots per game, but it's also because of the type of shots he's taking every game. A more efficient shot selection would make him such a ridiculously dangerous player.
As for Jok, he really is shooting more long twos this year.
Even in the second half of Saturday's game, when the half court offense was operating smoothly, there was a possession where Jok threw up a contested jumper early in the shot clock from around the elbow and killed the possession. Discounting the fact that Iowa had to foul at the end and that's why they lost by 4 points, this game was really a one possession game, which meant that every empty possession this team had due to taking a bad shot potentially cost them the game. I know the injury to Aaron White was difficult to overcome, but this team probably would have won if they had gotten a better game out of at least Uthoff.
As for Purdue, their 38 points in the paint were huge in this one. Yes, Rapheal Davis' clutch three at the end of the game was the game-winner, but when Iowa was able to force the Boilers to shoot from any kind of distance on the day, they usually missed. Looking at the box score, I counted Purdue going 8-35 (22.9%) when forced to shoot from further out. But when they were able to shoot closer to the basket, the Boilers were 17-18 (94%) against Iowa.
Even when Iowa went to their 2-3 zone, they clearly missed Aaron White. The Hawkeyes began to do an excellent job of denying Haas or Hammons the ball in the paint, but that left the baseline wide open at times, and it also forced the defense to collapse late on ball-handlers attacking the paint because they were worried about leaving one of Purdue's behemoths open. So even when the Hawkeyes found a way to slow down the Boilermakers from pounding them down low with Hammons and Haas, Iowa's need to focus on them left things open for other Purdue players to get their points.
Turnovers were a huge issue for the Hawkeyes in the first half. They had 8 of them, compared to just 2 by Purdue. The Boilers came away with 7 points off of Iowa's mistakes, and 4 of those points came on the fast break.
The second half, though, was much better for Iowa, as they turned the ball over 0 times. Purdue, on the other hand, gave the ball up 4 times and Iowa scored 7 points off of those 4 turnovers. Some of those turnovers even came from Iowa utilizing their 1-2-2 three quarter court press to perfection, which is something that we haven't seen a lot this season.
Similar to the rest of the game, though, Iowa may have won the second half, but those empty possessions from the first half were just too much to overcome.
Well, hello, Gabe Olaseni! One of the many reasons why this loss sucks is because it wastes one of the greatest rebounding performances I have ever seen. Olaseni started the game slowly, as he was just overpowered on both ends by Haas and Hammons. However, he played much better as the game went on, and even when he was struggling, he was still pulling down rebounds with aplomb. For the game, Iowa had 24 offensive rebounds out of the 46 that were possible. Of those 24, Olaseni had 11 all by himself. And this was against a Purdue team that is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation.
As a whole, Iowa pulled down about 60% of all available rebounds in this game, and Purdue was only allowed to rebound 29% of their own misses. Winning the second chance points battle 18-9 was a big part of the reason that Iowa was able to come back and make this a close game on the road.
Free Throw Rate
This was a frustrating category for Iowa, at least in the first half. Before halftime, Iowa couldn't get a whistle called on Purdue, but it seemed like Purdue was getting a whistle in their favor whenever they had the ball. Particularly annoying was Aaron White getting called for a foul on the play that got him injured, and then Gabe Olaseni's "missed dunk" where he was clearly hit on the wrist by Isaac Haas.
But the first half aside, things evened out a bit after halftime. Olaseni started getting the whistles and Iowa was rewarded for getting the ball to the rim and actually getting hacked. But Purdue continued to get Iowa called for fouls as well, and the Hawkeyes probably didn't win this category by the margin they wanted to in the second half.
Of course, it was helpful that Purdue lived up to their bad free throw shooting reputation, but some of the defensive possessions where Purdue was bailed out with a trip to the free throw line in the second half were just back-breaking for Iowa. And then there was also the fact that Iowa made only 17 of their 26 free throw attempts on the day. That's below their average on the year, and just a couple more made free throws could have made a huge difference in this game.
Overall: Iowa won 1 of the 4 Factors
Mike Gesell just about won this game all by his damn self in the second half. Over the final 14 minutes of game time, Iowa's starting point guard went 6-8 from the floor and 3-5 from the free throw line on the way to scoring 15 of Iowa's final 19 points of the game. Gesell was simply en fuego during this time, as he was just slicing through Purdue defenders on his way to the basket on just about every possession.
He finished the game with 18 points on 7-14 shooting from the field (1-3 from outside) and 3-5 from the line.
He had a rough first half that included making just 1 of his 6 attempted field goals and being responsible for 3 of Iowa's 8 turnovers. However, he more than made up for that first half with his final 14 minutes of play.
After Gesell, Iowa's big men played really well when they weren't getting called for fouls. Gabe Olaseni, after looking out-muscled in the beginning of the game, came back to not only put on a rebounding show of extraordinary proportions, but also started giving Iowa some offense too. His first half shooting performance of 1-8 from the field and 2-4 from the line left a lot to be desired, but his second half was a much better, as he went 1-2 from the floor and 3-5 from the stripe.
Again, though, Gabe's rebounding performance was simply amazing. He came away with about 42% of the estimated percentage of offensive rebounds that were available to him when he was on the floor. That's seriously insane for someone who played 23 minutes. His previous high this season was 34% against lowly Alcorn State. He has been the best offensive rebounder for Iowa for a long time now, but even as the 34th best offensive rebounder in the nation per Kenpom, he is only grabbing about 15% of all available misses on the year. To do what he did on Saturday, especially against a Purdue team that is legitimately good at rebounding, was absolutely mind-blowing.
As for Gabe's counterpart, I know a lot of people weren't particularly impressed with Woodbury only grabbing 1 measly rebound and constantly being in foul trouble against Purdue, but he offered up quite a bit in other areas when he was in the game. First and foremost, unlike Gabe, Woodbury actually seemed to be able to handle Hammons and Haas in man-to-man defense with little extra help. Woodbury was frequently beating Purdue's big men to their spots and denying them the ball and not making it easy to just toss the ball over his head. Hell, Iowa's starting big man also came away with two steals out of the deal.
But Woody being in foul trouble early on is what really kick-started Purdue's first half run. In my opinion, Fran waited too long to go to the 2-3 zone against Purdue. Right when Woodbury went to the bench, I thought McCaffery should have gone strictly zone in order to protect Olaseni. Of course, he didn't and Purdue took advantage of Hammons and Haas one-on-one with Olaseni. When Woodbury left the game with 2 fouls in the first half, Purdue was trailing 10-6. They then went on to score 6 of their next 7 points in the paint, including 4 points from Haas and 2 from Hammons. Iowa would eventually start playing zone, but not before Purdue would take advantage of the mismatch they had down low when Iowa played man-to-man with Olaseni.
Moving away from his defense, Woodbury also shot the ball well when he was in the game, going 2-2 from the floor, 3-4 from the line, and throwing in 7 points for the Hawkeyes. Adding that to the fact that Iowa could have used his post defense early on, it would have been interesting to see the outcome of this game had he not been in foul trouble.
Additionally, the chart above also goes to show you how big of a loss Aaron White was. In his 7 minutes of play, he was one of Iowa's best players. Considering his season average adjusted game score per minute is 0.60, I think it is safe to assume that his 0.58 in 7 minutes would also have translated pretty well to 30 minutes on the court.
Finally, Anthony Clemmons played a really nice game off the bench. He gave Iowa 9 points off the pine and hit 3 of his 4 attempted field goals, including nailing both of his three point attempts on the day.
He didn't do much else, but his determination to get to the basket and his ability to knock down his open looks from distance were much needed for an Iowa team not only playing without its best player, but also not getting production from its second best player.
Okay, let's wrap up with some bullets.
- I'm not trying to berate a college-aged kid over a what is really just a silly game, but Jarrod Uthoff needs to be smarter about the shots he takes. He has the most upside on this team to be a legitimate star, but he is going to need to adjust his shot selection if he wants to take that next step.
- The same goes for Peter Jok. He also has quite a bit of potential, but he needs to pick better shots if he too wants to take that next step. We've talked about him being the replacement for Devyn Marble, but Marble decreased his number of long twos every year that he was on campus. Jok, on the other hand, is almost two-thirds of the way into his sophomore season and he has yet to show that he is on that same path.
- Speaking of Jok, Iowa still had 8 seconds on the game clock when Peter threw up that contested three point shot at the end of the game. I get that the play was drawn up for him, but if it's not there and there is that much time left on the clock, there is no need to shoot. Rather, be patient and get a good shot; just like you guys had been doing most of the second half.
- Something that would have been interesting if Woodbury had not been in foul trouble all day, would have been to see Fran go with Woody and Gabe on the court at the same time. Iowa clearly missed Aaron White on the defensive side of the ball and Gabe is athletic enough to guard Purdue's power forward without giving too much up. And if Aaron White's stinger is going to keep him out for an extended period of time or even limit his playing time, Fran should think about playing his big men at the same time. I like Dom Uhl, but replacing more of White's minutes with Olaseni would be a lot more productive than giving most of them to the true freshman.
- Even in his limited time of the court, Aaron White still found a way to get himself a dunk and extend his slam streak to 8 games. Here is the updated table:
|Aaron White Dunk-O-Meter||Freshman||Sophomore||Junior||Senior||Career|
|Field Goals Made||136||140||143||86||505|
This loss most definitely sucks, but let's keep in mind that it's not the end of the world. Sure, Iowa can't seem to catch a break when it comes to getting and staying ranked in the top 25, but their last two losses were to vaunted Wisconsin and a pretty good Purdue team. Both were on the road, and the latter was a close loss in which Iowa was essentially playing without their two best players.
The Hawkeyes get a week off to rest up for a home rematch with the Badgers. After that game, the schedule gets much more manageable. Sure, Maryland isn't too far off from now, but the back end of this schedule is pretty damn winnable for this team. Finish the season strong, and they should still be able to get a pretty good seed in the tournament.