Three Thoughts as Iowa Dominated Northwestern

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on January 14th, 2013

Deepak Jayanti is an RTC correspondent for the Big Ten microsite. He filed this report after the Iowa – Northwestern game in Evanston on Sunday afternoon. 

After a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State earlier in the week, the Iowa Hawkeyes needed a win against Northwestern in Evanston to avoid a disastrous four-game losing skid. Describing Sunday’s match-up as a “must-win” game may sound extreme for an 11-5 team, but Fran McCaffery’s squad needed to get on board in conference play and gain some confidence because they start three freshmen – Adam Woodbury, Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell. The Hawkeyes dominated the game to record their first win in the Big Ten this season, winning by a final margin of 70-50. The following are three thoughts from Sunday’s game:

Fran McCaffery's Hawkeyes needed the win against Northwestern to avoid an 0-4 start in conference play. (AP/C. Neibergall)

Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes needed the win against Northwestern to avoid an 0-4 start in conference play. (AP/C. Neibergall)

  1. The Iowa freshmen continue to struggle during conference play – It isn’t surprising to see a freshman backcourt and a center struggle during the first three games of the conference season against such top teams as Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State. The game against the Wildcats was an opportunity for Iowa’s young players to show any improvement but they struggled offensively again. Woodbury was 1-of-7 from the field but gobbled up nine rebounds against a weak Northwestern front line. Gesell did a good job of only turning the ball over once but couldn’t find his shot. Devyn Marble handled the ball at the top of the key in the half-court, so there were not many opportunities for Gesell to drive the ball, therefore he had to settle for jumpers (0-of-4 from beyond the arc). Another reason for a poor shooting performance was the Wildcats’ zone defense. It is tough to understand how to break the zone until you’ve seen it multiple times and except for Michigan, not many of Iowa’s opponents have used the zone so far this season. Clemmons played only 14 minutes and barely saw the floor after turning the ball over against the press early in the second half. Overall, the Hawkeye freshmen could not figure out the Northwestern defense but fortunately they were bailed out by the upperclassmen during the game.
  2. Josh Oglesby and Aaron White exploit Northwestern’s zone defense – While the freshmen couldn’t hit their shots against the zone, White and Oglesby were on fire in the second half. Oglesby shot 4-of-9 from beyond the arc (making most of his shots from the left corner) to help the Hawkeyes build a formidable early lead. Overall, the Wildcats’ zone defense guarding the corners was not effective. When playing the zone, the corner three is usually available if the defenders don’t rotate quickly enough. During a few possessions Marble used his pump fake from the perimeter to penetrate into the high post area and when the baseline defender tried to slow him down, he kicked the ball out to Oglesby in the corner for open shots. The sophomore guard has shot just 30% from deep this season which is a seven percent drop from last year. But if he is able to contribute with timely open shots from beyond the arc, the pressure will somewhat lift from the freshmen to consistently produce against tough Big Ten competition. The baseline defenders in the zone did not have an answer for White either because he was able to get to the paint via the backdoor for a couple of easy layups.  The sophomore forward ended up with 17 points and shot 7-of-9 from the field but showed a great understanding of how to break the zone, especially when a smaller defender such as Dave Sobolewski was guarding him on the baseline.
  3. Drew Crawford’s absence is blatantly apparent in a dismal Wildcats’ offense – Crawford’s ability to take his man off the dribble is sorely missed but Bill Carmody’s team appeared to be out of sync on offense anyway. During the first half, Alex Olah passed up a wide-open jumper in the paint and Kale Abrahamson hesitated to shoot a similarly open shot from beyond the arc as his defender was slow to switch back after the pick-and-roll. Both of these possessions resulted in a loud groan from the student section because it was clear that the Northwestern lineups need more time to practice together and gel. Even without Crawford available, they could have confused a younger Hawkeye team by sticking to the plan to run backdoor cuts, but they gave up on the strategy too soon. Once the Hawkeyes picked off a couple passes to the weak side and covered the cuts effectively in the first half, Sobolewski and Alex Marcotullio put up too many shots from three-point land. As a team, the Wildcats were just 5-of-26 from deep and only racked up nine assists, exhibiting that most of their shots were based on isolation plays. Neither Reggie Hearn nor Jared Swopshire have the ability to break down defenders one-on-one but they should continue to stay disciplined and move the ball around to find the open man off those cuts. If Carmody’s team continues to settle for poor shots, then forget the NCAA Tournament — the Wildcatss might not even be a legitimate candidate for the NIT.
Deepak Jayanti (270 Posts)

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