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FRANALYSIS: IOWA EARNS THEIR FIRST BAD LOSS AT NORTHWESTERN

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Well, you guys, Iowa finally has a bad loss.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawkeyes had their chances to win this game, but Northwestern simply outplayed them for a majority of the game. Iowa's defense was its usual porous self, and the offense struggled to score anytime they got the ball into the paint. Northwestern, a team not known for their shot-blocking abilities, swatted 12 of Iowa's field goal attempts on the day and the only thing that even kept Iowa in this game was three-point shooting -- namely, a couple timely threes from Josh Oglesby and Jarrod Uthoff going absolutely bananas from outside in the second half.

Outside of Uthoff, though, this was an ugly game for just about everyone involved with the Hawkeyes. I'm holding out hope that this was just a bad game and not a sign of terrible things to come. I don't think I can take a repeat performance of last year.

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Four Factors in Review

1st half

First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.95, Northwestern 1.06

First Half Possessions: 25

2nd half

Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.23, Northwestern 1.11

Second Half Possessions: 24

overtime

Overtime Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.65, Northwestern 1.11

Overtime Possessions: 11

4 factors

Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.01, Northwestern 1.09

Possessions: 61

Shooting

This is the category that simultaneously doomed Iowa and yet almost allowed them to win this game. The first half and overtime were just terrible shooting displays by Iowa, but the second half, thanks to some hot three point shooting, not only allowed Iowa to stay in the game, but also gave them a legitimate chance at winning.

Honestly, this was a weird game from a shot selection standpoint. Iowa came into this game attempting a three on only 28.5% of their shots this season, but against Northwestern, that number was 38.7%.

Iowa 2pt Near Rim 2pt Jumper 3Pt FG
Attempts 32.3% 29.0% 38.7%
FG% 35.0% 27.8% 33.3%

(Shot Analytics had not updated before this was posted, so above are the box score numbers.)

The three point shooting of Jarrod Uthoff and Josh Oglesby helped keep Iowa in this game, but the team's struggles from the paint was ultimately what led to their downfall.

And it's not like Iowa had a particularly bad shot selection either. Northwestern played a majority of their defensive possessions in a 2-3 zone, but Iowa still had plenty of opportunities near the rim and they just couldn't cash in. In total, I counted 20 such attempts, out of which, Iowa only made 7. That's a FG% of just 35%, and that's terrible. The main reason for Iowa's woes down low had to do with the fact that Northwestern blocked 12 shots, including 10 near the rim. The offensive games of Adam Woodbury and Aaron White were the most negatively affected, as they combined to shoot 1-11 from up close, and had 7 of those 11 attempts blocked.

As for the Wildcats, they did what we all expected them to do: shoot a lot of threes.

Northwestern 2pt Near Rim 2pt Jumper 3Pt FG
Attempts 32.0% 28.0% 40.0%
FG% 56.3% 21.4% 45.0%

They also made a high percentage of them, including 6 in the first half and a few timely treys near the end of regulation to keep Iowa from running away with the game. And they also outshot the Hawkeyes near the rim thanks to not getting half of their attempts from down there blocked.

The Wildcats simply looked better on offense for a majority of the day. The Hawkeyes continued to look defensively out of position on many plays, and this gave Northwestern open looks from downtown. But the Wildcats also seemed to have more of a purpose on offense, and their guys were reading Iowa's defense and making great cuts to the basket without the ball. That is ultimately why they won this game.

Advantage: Northwestern

Turnovers

For everything Iowa lacked in shooting against Northwestern, they almost made up for it all with the amount of turnovers they forced on defense. McCaffery started forcing the issue more with the 1-2-2 three-quarter court press after halftime and a full court press at the end of the game, and both of these caused Northwestern some issues getting the ball up the court. Iowa forced a ten second violation and forced Northwestern into many tough traps as soon as they crossed the half court line when they were in the 1-2-2. At the end of the game the full court press also gave Iowa ample opportunities to win, by making inbounding the ball difficult and also allowing them to straight up take the ball away from the Wildcats.

Of course, the Hawkeyes didn't win the game. But winning the turnover category almost helped them overcome the shooting difficulties they had for most of the day.

Advantage: Iowa

Offensive Rebounding

For as good of an offensive rebounding team as Iowa has been this year, they have been almost that bad on the defensive boards. And both of those continued to prove true in this game.

In the first half and overtime, Iowa won the rebounding battle on both sides of the ball with ease. Unfortunately, they never really capitalized on these opportunities, as their shooting problems near the rim only allowed them to turn 12 offensive rebounds in the first half and overtime into just 11 second chance points. That's a less-than-efficient 0.92 points per second chance opportunity. And it doesn't get much better when you add in their 2 second chance points on 3 offensive rebounds in the second half. In total, Iowa was only able to muster 13 second chance points on 15 offensive rebounds, which was good for a measly 0.87 points per offensive rebound.

However, in the second half, when Iowa was shooting the ball well from outside, the offensive rebounding mattered a little bit less for the Hawkeyes. Of course, the defensive rebounding still mattered, and it folded like an accordion in the final 20 minutes of regulation, as the Wildcats were able to haul in 7 of their 16 misses and score 7 second chance points as a result.

If Iowa could have kept Northwestern off of the offensive glass in the second half, they might have actually escaped Evanston with a win. So the Hawkeyes technically won the overall rebounding battle, but they lost the second chance points battle and their defensive rebounding really hurt them when it mattered in this one.

Advantage: Iowa

Free Throw Rate

Northwestern's bar is inflated in this category due to all the end-of-game fouling that Iowa was forced to do. If it wasn't for all of that fouling, Iowa would have won this category too.

With that being said, kudos to Northwestern, because they actually made their free ones when they got to the line. Because, while the Wildcats made 15 of their 20 attempts from the line, Iowa only managed to make 13, and that was largely because Adam Woodbury went 3-8 at the stripe.

Now, I will briefly mention that I had some issues with the referees in the second half. They quickly whistled Northwestern for 6 fouls in the first 4 minutes of the half, but failed to call a single foul on them for the remaining 16 minutes. It would be one thing if Northwestern had abstained from fouling the rest of the way, but there were some legitimate fouls under the basket that should have been called and weren't. I'm not saying the refs cost Iowa the game, but I was less than impressed with the lack of whistles down the stretch. And from the look of him on the sideline, you could tell Fran was, too.

This is one of Iowa's most important categories on offense, and they simply didn't reach the foul line as often as they wanted nor did they shoot their free throws as well as they wanted. It was just a bad day from the line.

Advantage: Northwestern

Overall: Iowa won 2 of 4 Factors

Players

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Player of the game honors easily go to Jarrod Uthoff. He had the biggest impact on the game out of anyone on either team, according to adjusted game score per minute. And he played an absolutely critical role in getting this game into overtime.

Uthoff was Iowa's only real offense on the day, as he scored 25 of Iowa's 61 points on 8-16 shooting from the floor. Iowa's star forward was feeling it from everywhere on the court, making 67% of his shots near the rim, 50% of his long twos, and 45% of his threes. And, speaking of threes, Uthoff made 2 of his 5 threes in the final 12 seconds of regulation. Again, he was almost single-handedly responsible for sending this game to overtime.

Outside of his shooting, though, he had a kind of quiet game in his other usual areas, tallying 4 rebounds (1 offensive), 1 block, and 1 assist. Don't take that as me complaining, though. The guy was responsible for 41% of Iowa's points on the day. He more than did his job.

After Uthoff, though, nobody else really stood out in a positive light. Instead, Adam Woodbury and Aaron White both had games to absolutely forget. Woodbury played his third worst game of the year, according to adjusted game score per minute. He scored 3 points on 0-5 shooting from the floor and 3-8 shooting from the line, and grabbed only 2 rebounds (1 offensive) in 28 minutes on the court. Woody really struggled around the rim (and at the line) and could have benefited from a pump fake, as Northwestern was blocking and altering his shots with ease all game long. He could have also benefitted from a little less playing time, as I would have loved to see Fran let Gabe play more than 15 minutes against Northwestern's zone.

As for White, he had 6 of his 12 field goal attempts blocked on the day. He undoubtedly should have had a few more free throw attempts, as his game suffered the most when the refs swallowed their whistles. However, he struggled to go up strong with the ball as well, and I'm sure that's why he didn't did get as many calls as he's used to. And despite his 13 rebounds (5 offensive), his 6 points on 1-12 shooting from the floor was a huge part of the final stat line that made up his worst adjusted game score per minute of the season. Prior to averaging 0.12 against Northwestern in this one, his worst performance was 0.27 against Northern Illinois. The team average is 0.34 per minute and White has eclipsed that number in all but 4 games this season. The fact that he's only played this bad a couple of times this season should tell you how big of a blow his lack of production was to Iowa's chances of winning this one.

Now, a few bullet points.

  • Jarrod Uthoff going off and Aaron White struggling continued an interesting pattern in which both players seem to flip flop who plays well at home and who plays well on the road this year. Uthoff is now averaging 16.5 points per game and 0.48 per minute against Big Ten teams on the road compared to 11.3 and 0.36 at home. He is also putting up a 59.9% eFG% against Big Ten teams away from home, while only shooting 46.7% in Carver. Aaron White, meanwhile, is the complete opposite, averaging 16.3 points per game and 0.48 per minute in Iowa City and 10.2 and 0.34 in any other Big Ten venue. And his shooting also follows the same trend, as his eFG% at home is 55.6% and just 40.8% on the road. Iowa would be pretty unstoppable if they could get both guys on the same page at the same time.
  • For as bad of a game as he played, Aaron White did manage 1 dunk which keeps his streak alive. He now has a dunk in 13 straight games and one in every Big Ten game this season. Here is the updated chart:

Aaron White Dunk-O-Meter Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior Career
Dunks 32 56 51 43 182
Field Goals Made 136 140 143 108 527
Dunk Rate 23.5% 40.0% 35.7% 39.8% 34.5%

I don't have a lot of bullet points after this one. This loss simply sucks and it could really be a season-changer if Iowa doesn't finish the season strong. This is the first bad loss of the year, and here's to hoping it will be the last.