Let's go ahead and just get this out of the way right now: this is not a horrific loss. Minnesota was ranked by Kenpom in the 40s before this game and that's right around where Iowa was about a week ago. For what it's worth, the Gophers are now #39 after this game. They also have a metric crap-ton of close losses in Big Ten play. So while they are currently 5-7 in conference play, they could easily have a much better record. And, again, this wasn't a team of scrubs that Iowa just played. Minnesota has some very good players, and the numbers expected a close, competitive game and that is what we got. We were all just hoping that Iowa would come out on the other side of that close game.
So why didn't they?
Well, mainly, we can credit Minnesota's defense for absolutely taking Iowa's offense out of their element in this one. The Hawkeyes struggled to handle Minnesota's pressure defense, as the Gophers frequently jumped passing lanes and also just took the ball out of Iowa's hands on many occasions. Minnesota's defense also collapsed the lane extremely hard anytime Iowa attempted to attack the basket, and this forced Iowa to try and beat Minnesota from a distance. Unsurprisingly, Iowa wasn't able to do this.
Add up the turnovers and the inefficient shot selection, and throw in a 8 minute scoreless drought in the first half, and it's not hard to understand how this Iowa team lost.
The roller coaster continues.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.66, Minnesota 0.80
First Half Possessions: 29
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.25, Minnesota 1.28
Second Half Possessions: 32
Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.97, Minnesota 1.05
One game after drawing praise from me about having their best shot selection of the season, Iowa follows that up with their worst shot selection game of the season against Minnesota. Shot Analytics wasn't updated before I wrote this, but here are the shot selection numbers for each team that I pulled from box scores:
|FG Attempts||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG|
That's right, about half of Iowa's shots were of the long two variety. And when you realize that Iowa made only 32% of those shots on the night it becomes pretty clear why that was a less than ideal shot distribution.
The shot selection did get better in the second half, but it still wasn't enough to get Iowa over the hump.
|FG Attempts||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3pt FG|
Overall, Minnesota's defense did an excellent job of making Iowa shoot way too many jump shots, and the Hawks were outscored 24-18 in the paint because of it. Pitino's rodents played a little bit of zone and an aggressive man-to-man, and basically anytime Iowa attempted to penetrate their defense, all five Gopher defenders would collapse down down on the ball and get their hands into the passing lanes. Normally, attacking the inside of a defense is supposed to open up looks at the basket or from three point range, but that wasn't the case for Iowa. Last night, dribble penetration was pretty non-existent, and when it was there, it tended to lead to quite a few turnovers for Iowa against a handsy Minnesota defense.
As for the Gophers, they didn't shoot the ball all that well vs. Iowa's defense in the first half, but the final 20 minutes were a different story. Down the stretch, Iowa could never seem to get a defensive stop when they needed one. Every time the Hawkeyes scored a basket, Andre Hollins would hit a 3 or Nate Mason would make a play. The weird thing about Minnesota's offensive performance is that only 7 of their 23 made field goals were assisted. So it's not like they suddenly mastered their half court offense and were putting on a clinic. Rather, they were just creating shots for themselves for most of the game and it worked quite well in the second half.
Overall, though, Iowa did win the shooting category by an ever-so-slightly margin in both halves. Too bad it wasn't good enough to give them the win.
This is the key stat of the game due to the fact that the rest of the categories were so close. Minnesota forced Iowa into coughing up the ball 16 times, while only losing the ball on offense 6 times themselves. Thanks to being -10 in the turnover margin, the Hawkeyes finished with 9 fewer scoring opportunities (including free throw possessions) than the Gophers did on the night. That's far too many empty possessions for the Hawkeyes, and that's why Iowa's slightly superior eFG% didn't matter. Minnesota simply had quite a few more opportunities to put the ball in the cylinder.
And if you are wondering whether or not Minnesota took full advantage of those turnovers, the answer would be a resounding "yes." After Iowa lost the ball, Minnesota scored 19 points off of those 16 turnovers, while Iowa only managed 4 points off of Minnesota's 6 turnovers.
This category was just all around ugly and I'm not sure there is much more I can say about it. This was the main reason Iowa lost this game.
The Hawkeyes won this category, but it didn't really mean a damn thing. Iowa out-rebounded Minnesota in the first half by quite a bit, but they had a hard time really taking advantage of that disparity, scoring only 5 second chance points to Minnesota's 3. After halftime, Iowa's defensive rebounding was absolutely horrible, and the Gophers were able come away with 7 second chance points just like the Hawkeyes were on offense. Iowa's inability to secure a defensive rebound in the final 20 minutes may have been a product of playing a lot of zone defense and struggling to find a man to box out. However, Iowa's inability to box out sure made things difficult when they needed to get a stop down the stretch.
Iowa won this category, but not by nearly enough.
Free Throw Rate
The final free throw rate for Minnesota is a bit inflated since Iowa intentionally fouled twice at the end of the game, giving Minnesota 4 free throws they otherwise probably wouldn't have had. But even without those free throws, this was an area in which Iowa really could have used a better performance to help offset their terrible shooting from the field. And most of that last sentence is directed at Aaron White, who was only able to make his way to the line for three free throw attempts all game long. That wasn't for a lack of trying, of course, as White did his damnedest to get his usual foul calls. He just wasn't getting them, though, and it really seemed to frustrate him and the rest of the team at times.
When they did get to the line, Iowa hit their free throws at an 81% clip. Minnesota gave Iowa ample opportunities to tie the game up or take the lead, as they missed some key free throws down the stretch and only made 63% for the game. If the Hawkeyes could have gotten to the line more, their superior shooting would have probably put them over the top in this category and in the final score. But, instead, Minnesota takes this factor and the game.
Overall: Iowa won 2 out of 4 Factors
Most of the starters got the bulk of the playing time again, which was good. However, not all of them played very well and Iowa's two star players waited way too long to find their groove on offense.
First, though, let's start with Peter Jok, who was Iowa's most consistent offensive option for the majority of the game. The sophomore shooting guard continued to show considerable offensive improvement, as he finished with a career-high 16 points on 5-10 shooting from the field (2-5 from long range) and 4-4 shooting from the charity stripe. The only problems in this game for Jok were turnovers (like the rest of the team) and the fact that he continued to struggle on defense. He was matched up with Andre Hollins -- who has been legitimately hot as of late -- and Hollins put up 20 points for Minnesota, as a result. Part of this was the fact that the senior Hollins is a very good offensive player, but the other part of this was the fact that Jok's defense continues to be an issue. I mean, Fran used him on offense at the end of the game, but brought Anthony Clemmons in as a defensive substitution for a reason. I'm not saying Jok will never be a good defender, but he does still have a ways to go.
After Jok, Jarrod Uthoff was the other main option for the Hawkeyes against Minnesota. He managed to finish the game with the highest adjusted game score per minute of anybody on either team, but he got a big chunk of that in the final minutes of the game. In the last two minutes of play, Uthoff had 6 points, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 rebound, and 1 steal. He was pretty much single-handedly responsible for Iowa almost making a miraculous comeback.
However, I was a bit disappointed that it took Uthoff until the final two minutes of the game to be that aggressive. Not that he had a horrifically bad game in the 31 minutes prior to that; he did have 11 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block, after all. But until the very end, he had not hit any three pointers (nor had he shot many) and he had been settling for long jumpers all night (he made 3 of his 8 attempts). He finished the night with 17 points on 5-12 shooting from the field (1-3 from downtown) and 6-7 from the free throw line. He also chipped in 7 rebounds (all defensive), 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal. In totality, he played a great game. I just wish he could have played more of the game the way he played the final two minutes.
And while Uthoff's first 31 minutes were slightly disappointing, Aaron White's offense for the majority of the game was downright depressing. He really struggled to do much of anything in the paint and wasn't able to find a groove until it was basically too late. Iowa's best player had only 2 points in the first half, and didn't even score his fourth point until there was 8:39 left in the game. Along with Uthoff, White had 7 points in the final 3:16 of game time. He finished the night with 13 points on 5-10 shooting, but he was only able to get to the free throw line three times and that is what hurt him for most of the game. He did grab 8 rebounds (2 offensive) and block one shot, but Iowa really could have used some offense out of him earlier on, especially during their scoring drought in the first half. If the Hawkeyes could have gotten early production out of White and Uthoff, the outcome of this game could have been a lot different.
Anthony Clemmons and Gabe Olaseni had decent games off the bench. Clemmons salvaged a rough first half, by being a bit of an offensive catalyst after halftime. And Gabe protected the rim on defense with 3 blocks, while also grabbing 4 total rebounds (2 offensive).
The rest of the guys failed to do much of anything. Mike Gesell couldn't shoot, penetrate the defense, hold onto the ball, and he really just couldn't run the offense, in general. Adam Woodbury also failed to do a whole lot and fouled out of the game on a pretty terrible fifth foul call. Josh Oglesby played 11 minutes and registered 1 assist and 1 turnover. The rest of his stat line was full of goose eggs. And Dom Uhl was the freshman he usually is, only without the awesome haircut.
Let's do some bullet points.
- So that last possession, huh? I think, like most people, I would have liked for Fran to take a timeout there. I know the timeout also allows the defense to draw up a play or get themselves set, but Iowa rarely seems to know what they are doing in situations like that. Gesell in this instance looked lost on that last play, and that was even before he turned the ball over. It seemed as if he wasn't sure if he should continue to drive the basket or whether he should get the ball out to a shooter. He looked like he was thinking way too much and then it all culminated with him running right into the arms of big Maurice Walker. At least with a timeout, I can hope that they would have drawn up a play to get Uthoff an open look.
- The officiating in this game was pretty terrible all night long. I'm not saying it was one-sided because I'm sure Iowa benefitted from some calls, but the refs missed a few blatant travels on Minnesota and, on one occasion, they even awarded the human foul-machine himself, Elliot Eliason, for going over the back for a rebound by saying Iowa fouled him. And then, of course, we have the "foul" on Adam Woodbury when Andre Hollins drove into the paint at the end of the game. Woodbury went straight up, and I am pretty sure very little to no contact was even made. But what irritates me more than anything about that foul, is the fact that Aaron White and company hadn't been getting that all game, and then they decide that the end of the game was the time to call that. Really? I'm all for calling a foul a foul, but that wasn't a foul and I'm not sure how you make a questionable call like that with the game on the line.
- Again, not saying the refs cost Iowa the game. Their ridiculous amount of turnovers, their shot selection, and that 8 minute scoring drought in the first half pretty much sealed their fate. That foul call sure as hell didn't help things, though.
- Speaking of Iowa's 8 minute drought in the first half, the Hawkeyes were stuck on 15 points from the 9:21 mark until there was only 1:14 left in the first half. Here is a visual representation of just how damaging that was for them (Hint: Iowa is the blue line):
(courtesy of SCACC Hoops)
- Gabe Olaseni had 3 blocks against Minnesota, which now gives him 41 on the season. According to Kenpom, he is the 28th best shot blocker in the nation.
- Aaron White had three dunks in last night's game, giving him 42 on the year. This moves his dunk streak to 12 straight games, continues his streak of at least one dunk in each Big Ten game, and gives him at least two dunks in the last three games. Here is the updated table:
|Aaron White Dunk-O-Meter||Freshman||Sophomore||Junior||Senior||Career|
|Field Goals Made||136||140||143||107||526|
To reiterate: this loss sucks, but it's not the end of the world. Iowa should be able to rebound from this and finish the season strong. They get Northwestern and Rutgers next, so if they can't find a way to get wins in those games, then you can go ahead and start panicking. Until then, let's just view this as an off night for Iowa. There is no reason to expect that the offense is going to play like that for the remainder of the season. These type of nights happen.
So flush it and move on. It's time to beat Northwestern.