Following a 60-55 win at North Carolina, the Iowa Hawkeyes appeared to finally show they had what it took to compete inside the Big Ten. Subsequent blowout wins over UMBC and Alcorn State also seemed to show early problems were beginning to be corrected.
It was hard to not believe Iowa came in to the in-state rivalry game at home against the Iowa State Cyclones riding high. Add in the news of Iowa State star guard/forward Bryce Dejean-Jones’ suspension for an arrest earlier in the week and it was all there for the Hawkeyes taking.
Except all the old and nasty issues reared their ugly head. Iowa came in to the game against the Cyclones with a big advantage in the front court, something ISU tried to counter with the insertion of Daniel Edozie to the lineup.
His impact was minimal, putting up just four points and two rebounds to go with four personal fouls, yet Iowa State outrebounded Iowa, 39-37. That just shouldn’t have happened given its pronounced height advantage.
Iowa also saw the ugly guard play rear its head, and it would’ve been really bad if not for a spark from Peter Jok off the bench. Just how bad could it have been?
The Hawkeyes leading scorer was forward Aaron White with 18 points, and Iowa’s guards not named Peter Jok combined for just 20 points between four players.
Jok put up 14 points in 25 minutes alone to be the only other Hawkeye in double figures on Friday night.
While that may be a positive sign, considering he’s done that in two of the last three games, Jok has yet to become a starter
No one has been more disappointing this season than junior guard Mike Gessell, who has hit double figures just twice this season and is averaging just 6.0 points per game on the season. So far this season he’s managed to regress instead of progress in points per game, field goal percentage, rebounds per game, assists per game
Yet, the guards clearly weren’t the only issue as Iowa failed to take advantage of the battle up front. Iowa’s three frontcourt starters combined for 17 rebounds, while Iowa State managed 13 rebounds from forward Dustin Houge all by his lonesome.
Given the physical battles and the depth of players on the inside in the Big Ten, if Iowa can’t get that corrected in time for conference play it will be a long season ahead.
Perhaps the most damning statement came after the game, when head coach Fran McCaffery was asked about how his team moves forward — especially with no games for a while thanks to finals break.
McCaffery spoke about a team who lost some belief in themselves, and that’s a major problem.
“You go back to work,” said McCaffery. “You break the film down. You hold them accountable. You don’t kill them. You’re reasonable about it. You know, you’ve got to encourage them. You’ve got to get them believing again because they clearly had some doubt tonight.”
Iowa better find some belief and quick, because they’ve got No. 23 Northern Iowa coming up and start Big Ten play with Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan State and Minnesota.
So, we’ve got a team who can’t get much out of its starting guards, can’t use its frontcourt height advantage when it should easily do it and also struggles to shoot from the outside. Oh, and one that had its spirit and belief broken in one bad loss to its rival, Iowa State.
That’s a rather large check list of things to figure out, and could be the reason Iowa once again disappoints based on expectations.