Indiana is going through a real rough stretch right now. After beginning conference play with a 5-1 record, they have gone 4-7 in their last 11 Big Ten games. Normally I mention other teams' recent struggles in the preview leading up to the game, but the pessimistic Iowa fan in me would have none of it yesterday. Thanks to Iowa's lackluster offensive performance on the road against Northwestern and the coronary ailment-inducing closeness of the Penn State game in the Bryce Jordan Center, I figured a ridiculously good three-point shooting team like Indiana -- who was 16-2 overall and 6-1 in Big Ten play at home before last night -- would be able to overcome their defensive issues by outscoring Iowa in a similar manner to last year.
But this wasn't last year, and this certainly doesn't seem to be the 2013-2014 Iowa Hawkeyes. That defense absolutely collapsed last season, and failed to really make any adjustments down the stretch. This year's squad and coaching staff seems better prepared after the embarrassing finish to last season. The defensive side of the ball was a major concern at the start of conference play. During their first nine games, Iowa held just one Big Ten team (Nebraska) to under 1.00 point per possession (PPP). Over the last eight games, Iowa has limited all but three opponents to under a point per trip. And, technically, if we don't round up, Iowa held Penn State to 0.9989 PPP.
Of course, a big part of that has to do with the beastly schedule Iowa played at the front end of conference play and the way it has evened out down the stretch. That being said, Iowa's defensive performance last night, against an Indiana team that has one of the best offenses in the nation, may be evidence that this team is legitimately improving on the defensive end of the court.
Unlike last year, where it didn't seem like the coaching staff was making many changes on defense, that was not the case against Indiana. Iowa knew the only way the Hoosiers could beat them was from outside the arc, and they made it a point to take that away. The defense switched on more screens than I believe I have ever seen them do, in an attempt to keep Indiana from getting much space to shoot from distance. Additionally, they didn't over pursue in the same manner that I am used to seeing. In the past, we have seen all five men collapse to the rim when the opposing team attacks the bucket. Help defense isn't a bad thing, but the only thing Iowa was helping by throwing everyone into the lane was the opposing team by giving them wide open looks from three. That wasn't the case last night. Rather, when guys like Yogi Ferrell were able to get the ball inside the middle of the defense, Iowa let their big men protect the rim. And they did so with aplomb, while other guys stayed out on perimeter to cover the bevy of Hoosier shooters.
The offensive performance in the second half was great, but I came away more impressed with Iowa's defense on the night, and the coaching staff's ability to make adjustments based on the team they were playing. This is an Iowa team that seems to be coming together at just the right time, and they could be a force to be reckoned with in postseason play.
Four Factors in Review
First Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 0.97, Indiana 0.85
First Half Possessions: 33
Second Half Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.31, Indiana 1.02
Second Half Possessions: 34
Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.14, Indiana 0.94
Offense was really a tale of two halves for this Iowa team. They looked to get the ball into their big men early and often, but were held to less than a point per possession in the first half because they struggled to finish near the rim and failed to get many second chance opportunities. It was a pretty sloppy half, overall.
Most of that changed after halftime, though. There were still quite a few missed shots near the rim, but the Hawkeyes finally started getting offensive rebounds and scoring off them. And it also didn't hurt that the three ball started falling too.
|Iowa||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG|
Despite their first half troubles, I do want to emphasize that Iowa did their best to exploit the length they had on offense. They took a majority of their shots from near the rim, and even though they didn't necessarily shoot the ball the greatest from up close, it also paid off in trips to the free throw line. And even though the 12 missed shots near the rim is less than ideal, the Hawks were helped out by Jarrod Uthoff and Mike Gesell draining mid-range jumpers, and a few timely three pointers by guys like Peter Jok and Anthony Clemmons. This was a very well-rounded offensive performance from Iowa.
As for Indiana... yikes.
|Indiana||2pt Near Rim||2pt Jumper||3Pt FG|
They did what we all expected them to do, as they shot a ton of threes. They took 25 of them and they made a good chunk of them (10), to boot. Iowa knew this Indiana team was scary from outside and they committed to not giving them the wide open looks that we saw people like Travis Trice get earlier this year. By switching on ball screens on the perimeter, Iowa was willing to forego any possible mismatches in an attempt to not give Indiana any breathing room on the perimeter.
Essentially, the Hawkeyes dared Indiana to attack the rim and try to score over the forest of Iowa big men in the paint. Yogi Ferrell tried on multiple occasions, but to no avail. This was killer for an Indiana offense that relies so much on the drive and kick. Iowa's perimeter defenders weren't collapsing all that hard, so there really weren't a lot of opportunities for wide open threes. Iowa's length also ruined any thoughts Indiana had of establishing a post presence. Of Indiana's 20 missed shots near the rim, Troy Williams and Hanner Mosquera-Perea combined for 11 of them (9 were by Williams alone). Overall, Iowa held the big trio of Indiana scorers (Ferrell, Blackmon Jr. and Williams) to just 12-37 shooting from the field. They had a combined 33 points, but when you take into account that they had 41 scoring opportunities (including free throw possessions), that is a measly 0.90 points per scoring attempt. That's how you hold a big time offense under 1.00 PPP.
In addition to both teams missing shots, turnovers were a big part of why the first half was so damn ugly. Iowa didn't give the ball up an egregious amount, but 7 turnovers is still too many when you aren't shooting very well from the field. Peter Jok was responsible for 5 of those turnovers in the first half, though, so it's not like this was a team-wide issue.
Both teams cut the turnovers down quite a bit in the second half. Iowa only coughed the rock up 3 times, as Indiana went from 9 turnovers in the first half to just 5 in the second. For the game, Iowa outscored Indiana 14-10 on points off of turnovers. This category wasn't the main reason why Iowa won this game, but having 4 fewer empty possessions due to losing the ball certainly didn't hurt the Hawkeyes any.
Missed shots, turnovers, and a lack of offensive rebounding hurt Iowa's offense in the first half. The Hoosiers held the Hawkeyes to below their season average in offensive rebounding rate before halftime and Iowa was only able to throw in 5 second chance points, as a result. Luckily, despite out-rebounding Iowa in the initial 20 minutes of the game, the Hoosiers only scored 3 second chance points thanks to Iowa's length down low.
Once halftime was over, though, Iowa kicked it in to hyper-gear on the offensive glass and dominated the Hoosiers. Indiana, a team who is actually pretty good on the boards was limited by Iowa's big men in the second half. During this time, Iowa attacked the defensive glass, allowing Indiana to collect only a quarter of their misses and only giving up 5 second chance points on 5 offensive rebounds. On the other end of the court, Iowa hauled in 39% of their misses and scored 12 second chance points on 7 offensive rebounds.
Between Jarrod Uthoff, Aaron White, Adam Woodbury, and Gabe Olaseni Iowa had 11 defensive rebounds and 5 offensive rebounds. That is the same number of rebounds the entire Indiana team had in the second half. Iowa's size was an issue for Indiana in a whole host of ways on Tuesday night, and a good portion of that came from rebounding in the second half.
Free Throw Rate
Indiana came into this game not drawing many fouls on offense, and that is exactly what happened. Part of that was because they take so many three point shots, but another reason was because Iowa's big men did a good job of contesting and blocking shots near the basket without fouling.
In comparison to just 11 free throw attempts for the Hoosiers, Iowa was able to get themselves to the free throw line 28 times against a team that had been pretty good at keeping their opponents off of it this year. Again, a good portion of Iowa's free throws came due to their size in the paint. The best contact-initiators on the team, Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni, combined for 14 free throws (10 by White). Meanwhile, Anthony Clemmons made his presence known by continuing to aggressively attack the basket and make his way to the charity stripe.
The Hawkeyes ended the night with 28 free throw attempts, of which they made 23. I would call that a pretty successful night.
Overall: Iowa won all 4 Factors
Iowa had 4 guys finish with double-digit points. Let's start off with the big two, Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff.
White put together his third straight 20-point game against the Hoosiers, scoring 21 on 6-13 shooting from the field and doing a good chunk of his work in the paint, where he finished 5-8 near the rim. Even though he missed three shots near the rim, he more than made up for that by drawing fouls and hitting 9 of his 10 free ones. Everyone's favorite ginger also pulled down 5 rebounds (1 offensive) and handed out an assist on the way to the highest adjusted game score per minute out of all starters in the game.
While White did a good chunk of his damage before halftime, Jarrod Uthoff helped Iowa's slumping offense in the first half by scoring 9 of his 14 points before the break. Uthoff really had his stroke going against the Indiana defense, as he made 5 of his 6 field goal attempts and all three of his free throw attempts. Uthoff's only miss came on a three point attempt, but he made his only try near the rim and knocked home all three of his mid-range jumpers. He also made his presence felt on the defensive side of the ball by coming up with 3 steals and blocking 3 shots. One of those blocks came on a layup attempt, but Uthoff made his length felt out on the perimeter, where he blocked 2 of Robert Johnson's 6 three point attempts.
And for as good as White and Uthoff were for Iowa in the 37 and 32 minutes they were on the court, Gabe Olaseni gave Iowa even more production in his 20 minutes play. He started off the game a little slow, only scoring 5 points on 1-4 shooting in the first half. Part of the problem looked to be that he was trying to play way too fast, and he simply needed to slow himself down when he got the ball down low. But he was able to help offset some of his early struggles by going to the line 4 times and making 3 of his attempts.
However, the second half was absolute beast mode time for him. He scored 6 points, grabbed 6 rebounds (2 offensive), blocked 2 shots and had 1 steal. Gabe was responsible for 4 of Iowa's 12 second chance points after halftime, throwing down put-back slams on both of his offensive rebounds. He even had one sequence in which he swatted a James Blackmon Jr. layup attempt and then hustled down the court to throw down an Aaron White missed layup. Gabe was a monster in the second half, and he was a big part of why Iowa pulled away after intermission.
Finally, Anthony Clemmons was the other key contributor for Iowa. Like just about everyone else, he was quiet in the first half, only to explode in the second. Starting with a big three pointer that extended Iowa's lead back to 8 points with about 10 minutes left in the game, Clemmons went on to score 8 more points down the stretch by attacking the basket. He only had 1 layup from the floor, but he made 5 of his 6 free throw attempts on the night. He was playing so well, that he ended up playing more minutes than Mike Gesell in this one. Fran mentioned in the post-game press conference that it was because Gesell was in a bit of foul trouble, but Clemmons was playing great offense and defense down the stretch, so it wasn't so easy to take him off the court.
Lastly, let's do a few quick bullet points.
- Peter Jok also bounced back from a lousy first half. In the first half he had just 2 points and 5 turnovers. He was forcing passes inside to guys who weren't quite open and he was just making some head-scratching plays. However, he more than made up for it with 2 big threes in the second half. Both of his threes helped extend the lead back to double-digits and continue to make things extremely difficult for Indiana to get back into the game.
- Aaron White added another dunk to his season total, which is now at 52. He still has a dunk in every Big Ten game this season, and now has a dunk in his last 18 games. Here is the updated table:
|Aaron White Dunk-O-Meter||Freshman||Sophomore||Junior||Senior||Career|
|Field Goals Made||136||140||143||138||557|
In the midst of a five-game winning streak, Iowa welcomes Northwestern to Iowa City this Saturday for a rematch. Finishing the regular season on a six-game winning streak would certainly be something. Here's to hoping they obliterate the Wildcats.