Anthony Clemmons

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

No. 20 Iowa loses to Illinois, suffering fifth loss in its last six games

Leave a comment

Having lost four of their last five games of the regular season, No. 20 Iowa looked to establish some positive momentum at the Big Ten tournament this weekend. A team that some believed to be the best in the conference at the end of January has fallen on hard times of late, and that continued Thursday afternoon as they lost to Illinois 68-66 in Indianapolis.

Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes have now lost five of their last six games. And even with their efforts to fight back from double-digit deficits on multiple occasions Thursday, one has to wonder if this team has the confidence needed to turn things around ahead of the NCAA tournament.

Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok, who have led the way offensively all season long, combined to score 50 points for Iowa. But, as has been the case in multiple games during this streak of losses, they didn’t receive much help from the supporting cast. Remove the eight points scored by Nicholas Baer off the bench, and the other Hawkeyes combined to score a total of eight points. It’s incredibly tough to win games when that’s the case, whether it’s against another NCAA tournament-caliber team or one in Illinois that’s playing simply to keep its season alive.

Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell combined to dish out 14 assists, but they also combined to score just three points (all from Gesell) on 1-for-13 shooting from the field. And center Adam Woodbury shot 1-for-7 from the field, scoring two points and grabbing ten rebounds.

During their 2-6 run, with the wins coming over Minnesota and Michigan, the lack of production from the “supporting cast” has been a major issue for Iowa. And given how long this has been the case, does Iowa have what it takes to turn things around? It would be unfair to hold the last two seasons against Iowa because this is a different group, but given past setbacks that’s going to be a question that asked quite often between now and next week.

The NCAA tournament is about match-ups, but a team’s mindset is also an important factor. And in the case of Iowa, they’re mired in a slump at the worst possible time.

No. 9 Iowa beats No. 22 Purdue, moves to 7-0 in Big Ten play

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Leave a comment

Given the shift in momentum in the first meeting between No. 22 Purdue and No. 9 Iowa, Sunday’s rematch in Iowa City set up to be an interesting contest. And while the shift from one half to the next wasn’t as drastic this time around, the Hawkeyes once again took control of the action in the second half. Fran McCaffery’s team won 83-71, moving to 7-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since the 1969-70 season.

A theme in both games between the Hawkeyes and Boilermakers was turnovers, with Purdue once again struggling to take care of the basketball. In West Lafayette, Iowa called upon pressure defense throughout most of the second half to turn a 17-point deficit into a seven-point victory. Sunday afternoon Purdue committed a total of 17 turnovers, with Iowa converting those mistakes into 24 points on the other end.

There were times when Iowa went to their trapping defense and they were successful with it, but for most of the game they played their standard man-to-man. It was another example of the one concern many had about Purdue before the season began: did they have the ball-handlers needed to get the team into advantageous situations on the offensive end of the floor? P.J. Thompson, who scored 16 points off the bench, had just one turnover on the day but Rapheal Davis racked up four and Johnny Hill had as many turnovers as starting center A.J. Hammons (three).

Given Iowa’s offensive options, led by national Player of the Year candidate Jarrod Uthoff and much-improved Peter Jok, those turnovers can be turned into points either in transition or in the half-court.

Uthoff scored 22 points against Purdue, which ultimately had to change its lineup to account for his skill set at the four with Vince Edwards shifting to that spot and Caleb Swanigan playing the five. But for as good as Uthoff’s been this season, stopping Iowa requires a lot more than simply keying in on the senior forward. Jok added 13 points as did senior center Adam Woodbury, who also grabbed ten rebounds, and Anthony Clemmons added ten points and six assists.

With their ball and player movement Iowa’s done a good job of finding quality looks on a consistent basis this season, and against one of the nation’s better defenses the Hawkeyes shot 50 percent from the field and 11-for-20 from three.

With Iowa now claiming season sweeps of both the Boilermakers and No. 11 Michigan State, underestimating this group’s chances of winning the Big Ten would be a fool’s errand. And with their league slate being front-loaded for the most part, Iowa can take another step in that direction with a win at No. 7 Maryland Thursday night. Having already experienced significant success on the road, Iowa won’t lack for confidence heading into that game either.

Jok has a career-high 29 as No. 9 Iowa beats Rutgers

AP Photo/Mel Evans
Leave a comment

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Peter Jok scored a career-high 29 points and No. 9 Iowa shook off pesky Rutgers in the second half in posting a harder-than-expected 90-76 victory on Thursday night.

Jarrod Uthoff and Anthony Clemmons added 20 points apiece as the Hawkeyes (15-3, 6-0) won their eighth straight game and their 12th in a row in the Big Ten Conference, dating to last season.

Iowa used a zone defense late in the first half in a 16-7 run that gave it a 45-37 lead, and it opened the game up in the second half with its long-range shooting.

Mike Williams had 17 points to lead Rutgers (6-14, 0-7), which was coming off a 50-point loss to No. 22 Purdue on Monday, its worst home loss.

Jonathan Laurent, who was returning after missing four games with a concussion, added 14 points and Corey Sanders had 12 for the Scarlet Knights, who have lost their last 22 conference games, including tournament play.

Jok, who is the conference’s reigning player of the week, hit 10 of 19 from the field, and matched his season-high with five 3-pointers. He scored 10 of the Hawkeyes first 13 points and his last basket cut short Rutgers final rally.

His previous high was 24 points against Florida State earlier this season.

The Scarlet Knights put up a much better fight than against Purdue on Monday as they rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit and took a 30-29 lead on a basket by Williams with 4:26 to play.

Iowa soon switched to a zone and it opened a 45-37 lead as Clemmons scored six points and Jok and Uthoff added five in the 16-7 run.

The Hawkeyes were never threatened in the second half as Uthoff hit three 3-pointers in helping build a 19-point lead with 7:23 to play.

TIP-INS

Iowa: The Hawkeyes No. 9 ranking is the highest since Fran McCaffery took as the head coach in 2010, and the lowest since a No. 7 in November 2001. It also marks the first time Iowa has had its football and basketball teams ranked in the top 10 in the same season.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights picked up their board game just days after Purdue outrebounded them 69-23. Iowa only held a 38-33 advantage with Adam Woodbury leading the way with 11. D.J. Foreman had nine for Rutgers.

UP NEXT

Iowa hosts No. 22 Purdue on Saturday.

Rutgers visits Michigan on Wednesday.

Online:

AP college basketball website: http://collegebasketball.ap.org/

No. 16 Iowa makes another statement at No. 4 Michigan State’s expense

Associated Press
2 Comments

For those who may have been quick to add an asterisk to No. 16 Iowa’s win over No. 4 Michigan State in the Big Ten opener for both December 29, citing the absence of senior guard Denzel Valentine, Thursday night’s rematch in East Lansing would provide the true answer to the question of whether or not Fran McCaffery’s team is a true conference title contender.

Neither the presence of Valentine nor the change of venue made any difference in the second meeting, as Iowa left no doubt in their 76-59 win in East Lansing.

Leading 12-11 just under four minutes into the game, Iowa broke the game open with a combination of highly efficient offense and solid defending, taking their lead from one to 22 (47-25) by the end of the first half. And this was done with Mike Gesell on the bench with two quick fouls and leading scorer Jarrod Uthoff scoring eight points on 3-for-10 shooting from the field.

Who stepped forward? None other than junior guard Peter Jok and sophomore forward Dom Uhl, who combined to score 29 of Iowa’s 47 first-half points.

Jok, who struggled with bouts of inconsistency in his first two seasons in Iowa City, has emerged as a more dependable offensive option this season. Jok entered the game shooting just over 39 percent from the field, which isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. But he’s averaging 13.1 points per game and has scored in double figures in five of Iowa’s last seven games. Jok was efficient against Michigan State, scoring a game-high 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field, rebounding from an eight-point outing in a win over Nebraska.

As for Uhl, he did nearly all of his damage in the first half, finishing the game with ten points and five rebounds (only one rebound after halftime) with all ten points coming during that period with Gesell on the bench. Like Jok, Uhl’s been a more productive player this season, averaging 18 minutes per game and raising both his scoring (7.3 from 2.1) and rebounding averages (4.3 from 1.8) from a season ago by solid margins.

Add in 13 points from guard Anthony Clemmons, and Iowa had more than enough offense to make up for slow starts from Uthoff and Gesell.

That’s one of the big differences between this Iowa team and those from the last couple of seasons. While those groups did not lack for talent, there were times when an off night from a primary option would prove to be too much to overcome. Thursday night the Hawkeyes received contributions across the lineup on both ends of the floor, using good ball movement to find quality shots against the Michigan State defense.

Add to that the fact that Michigan State couldn’t find its groove offensively (4-for-21 from three), and the end result was another quality win for Iowa. If they weren’t labeled a Big Ten title contender by now, this win should remove any doubt.