Iowa 83, North Carolina-Greensboro 58
No surprises tonight as Iowa won the championship game of the Hawkeye Challenge and improved its record to 6-1. Things were more or less the same as they have been all season - Pierre Pierce fused spectacular drive-and-finishes with a few forced shots, Carlton Reed hit some threes off the bench, Erek Hansen was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end, Jeff Horner kept his teammates involved with excellent passes, Greg Brunner was solid inside, both on the glass and on offense, and Adam Haluska found ways to score.
Some numbers stand out as less than perfect - UNC-Greensboro grabbed 18 offensive rebounds and forced 21 Iowa turnovers, often by deflecting lazy passes. Some of that can be attributed to fatigue, as Iowa played for the second consecutive night and for the 7th time in 16 days.
Iowa was impressive shooting the three, finishing 11-19. Horner hit 4-6, Haluska was 3-5, Reed shot 2-2, and Mike Henderson hit the only one he attempted.
Doug Thomas didn't get a chance for another of his signature dunks, but he did grab 10 rebounds in only 17 minutes. Iowa's leading rebounder for the tournament also had 7 rebounds on Friday night. For the season he has 41 rebounds in 111 minutes, or an excellent 14.8 reb/40 min.
Horner, Pierce, and Brunner were all named to the all-tournament team, with Horner and Pierce earning co-MVP honors. In the two games:
- Brunner: 26 pts, 15 reb, 5 blk
- Horner: 23 pts, 18 ast, 5 stl
- Pierce: 36 pts, 11 reb, 8 ast, 6 stl
Random Stuff - Pierce does indeed wear socks with the NBA logo, just in case you were curious. Don't know why it took me so long to notice. Pierce changed into some black and bright yellow shoes at half time. Pierce appeared to re-injure his left ankle - he fell to the floor after driving to the basket and held his ankle for a while. He made it back into the game a minute and a half later and didn't look any slower. Iowa wore its "special" gold home uniforms tonight. They also wore them in the season opener against Western Illinois.
Posting will likely be light over the next couple weeks with finals on the horizon. Thanks for dropping by.
Iowa 88, Centenary 53
Common question from the student section last night: "[w]ho are these guys?"
You can be assured of two things when Iowa plays a no-name opponent: aggressive dunks from Doug Thomas, and Pierre Pierce scoring at will. Hawkeye fans were again treated to both as Thomas twice brought the crowd to their feet and Pierce scored 19 points in just 22 minutes in a win against the Centenary Gentlemen. See also: Upper Iowa, Laval University, and to a limited extent, Western Illinois (apparently their higher name recognition negates Pierce's scoring ability). The theory gets tested again tonight against UNC-Greensboro.
It wasn't a Globetrotter show from the get-go, as Centenary held close with early three-pointers and tied the score midway through first half. Iowa was just too fast and too strong the rest of the way, and outscored the Gents 50-27 in the second half.
- The Hawk's Nest (the 2-3 row section behind the south basket) was apparently infused with alcohol, finally, and they were not shy about their affection for reserve big man Doug Thomas. Chants of "Thunder Doug" during warmups were encouraged with highlight-reel (almost-)dunks. The chants were revived in the second half with Centenary shooting free throws at the south end and Thomas along the lane. Doug acknowledged his fan club with an awkward smile, and not to disappoint, threw down an alley oop on the very next possession. The crowd loved it. While there are still plenty of moments when Doug shows how raw his talent still is, I hope he can find some minutes in a big game, just for the sake of his ability to ignite a frenzy in the crowd.
- Erek Hansen only played 19 minutes, but was around long enough to make a couple plays we never saw from him last year. First, running the floor - Iowa rebounded Centenary's miss on the first possession of the game. Hansen raced ahead and caught a pass on the fast break (although he failed to make the shot with a man in his face). Second, passing ability - Hansen hit Jeff Horner with a sweet backdoor bounce pass from the top of the key for an easy layup. One thing he could work on - when Hansen gets the ball up top with a guy closely guarding him, he likes to hunch over and swing his elbows. I think he'd be better off if he took advantage of his height by standing a little taller and getting a good view of his passing options.
- Coach Alford was able to rest most of the team and use all of his bench. Horner played 31 minutes, but the rest of the starters played right around 20 minutes, and several bench players saw 15 to 20 minutes. Iowa is in a stretch where they play 4 games in 8 days, so it'll be nice to have some fresh legs for those big games against Northern Iowa and Iowa State next week.
- Pierce finally managed to take Hawkeye Hoops Player of the Game honors away from Jeff Horner. He's been close on a couple occasions, most notably the Texas game, but he clearly deserved it for this performance. He scooped up loose balls and picked several pockets, coming away with 5 steals to go with his 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. One play that stands out in my mind: Pierce grabbed a loose ball, and was basically off-balance and on his knees. He split two defenders with a low, down-court pass to set Thomas up for a monster fast-break dunk.
- Greg Brunner put together another solid but unspectacular game. He had 14 points and 6 rebounds on 6-7 shooting.
- Did anyone else notice Pierce's socks? Maybe he's worn them all season, but last night it looked like he was wearing those NBA logo socks you see worn by the pros. Can someone sitting courtside confirm this for me? If they are his footwear of choice - hit some free throws, Pierre, then we'll talk.
Larry Eustachy's return to Iowa started out rough, as Southern Miss was defeated by UNC-Greensboro 79-78. Iowa gets the Spartans tonight at 8:11 CST. They'll clearly be tougher than Centenary, and Ronnie Burrell looked like a decent threat in the post. Check back tonight or early tomorrow for thoughts on that game.
Gazette Hawkeye Challenge
Iowa hosts its annual two-day, no-one-has-a-chance-but-us tournament this weekend. Southern Miss plays UNC-Greensboro at 5:45 CST Friday night, followed by Centenary and Iowa. The losers of each game play Saturday, followed by Friday's winners.
The Golden Eagles come into the tournament 3-1, with an opening loss to Georgia State. Southern Miss is from Conference USA, which it won in 2000-01. Three losing seasons later, they turned the program over to former Iowa State head coach Larry Eustachy. Yes, the same Eustachy who earned National Coach of the Year after leading the Cyclones to the Elite Eight in 2000 and won the Big XII twice. The same Eustachy who then left town after his drinking problems were revealed by the Des Moines Register in 2003. It's easy to overlook Eustachy's accomplishments in light of his battle with alcohol, but the guy was a solid coach. It should be interesting to see what he can do with a new program and a couple of years of recruiting. Recommended supplementary reading: Hilton Magic, Andy Katz.
Larry has a couple decent pieces in place for this year's team. His first recruit, Rashaad Carruth, is a juco transfer from Indian Hills with an interesting history. He was a McDonald's All-American who signed with Kentucky. His most memorable performance there was a 19 point game against Duke. He ended his freshman year with 134 points in 332 minutes, or 17.2 pts/40 min, which is very good for a rookie in the SEC. He then transferred to Oklahoma but never got to play after a marijuana suspension, and moved on to Indian Hills. He scored 18 ppg there last year. He's had games of 22 and 19 this year, and is 6-11 from three. Good Carruth read here.
Eustachy has another decent player in Jasper Johnson, a 6'8", 290 lb center. His scoring rate has been solid throughout his career. As a freshman he scored 23.4 pts/40 min, and had 22.0 pts/40 min last year. He's off to a hot start this year, averaging 18 points in only 23 minutes per game (31 pts/40 min). Iowa center Erek Hansen should be back by Friday, and he'll be needed to solidify the Hawkeyes' interior defense if they meet Southern Miss and Johnson in the championship on Saturday.
Southern Miss is also the school that has a new logo "confusingly similar" to Iowa's Tiger Hawk.
The Spartans hail from the Southern Conference (home of East Tennessee State and SI-praised Tim Smith), and have been a D-1 team for only 14 years. They are currently 2-1, including a 54 point loss to Dickie V's favorite team (at Cameron Indoor). Athlon Sports picks senior forward Ronnie Burrell for the all-conference team, after averaging 15.4 ppg and 7.0 rpg a year ago. He's currently the Spartans' third leading scorer with 13.0 ppg.
The Gentlemen (no typo) come to Iowa City with a 1-2 record that includes a 52 point loss at Texas Tech and a win over Northwestern State. They play in the Mid-Continent Conference (as did Iowa's first opponent, Western Illinois). Senior Chad Maclies, who averaged 7.4 ppg last year, lead's this year's team with 16.0 ppg and 10.7 rpg. Could be another good test for Iowa's big men, even if he is only 6'5", 220.
Stuff you didn't even know you wanted to know: Centenary is the smallest Division I institution in the NCAA and is the oldest college west of the Mississippi River.
Back to Reality
Alright, we're finally getting back to some home basketball - it's been two weeks since the season opener at Carver. Might not be the most exciting games of the year, but at least you can watch four games for the price of two. That's a good weekend for my money.
Judging by the words devoted to each team, you should deduct that I expect Iowa-Southern Miss on Saturday. I'm looking forward to seeing Eustachy on the sideline again, and I think Johnson might provide another decent test for Brunner and Hansen's defense down low.
(This post caps off the Wednesday night hat trick, if you're scoring at home, or if you're by yourself.) Classic Olbermann.
ACC 7, Big Ten 2
So much for a Challenge. The ACC vs Big Ten matchups wrapped up tonight, with only Wisconsin and Illinois winning in the nine games. I can't offer much in the way of commentary, but I needn't even try with a resource like the Big Ten Wonk just a click away. Check out his Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday posts for coverage of all the latest in Big Ten inferiority.
Northern Iowa Pummels Iowa State, 99-82
Two soon-to-be Iowa opponents played tonight in a game that surprisingly wasn't even close. Iowa plays Northern Iowa next Tuesday, and the Panthers are looking like a more and more formidable challenger with each game they play. Recall that they took eventual Final Four team Georgia Tech down to the wire in last year's NCAA tournament. They fell to Cincinnati in double-OT last week, after leading by as many as 18 (don't quote me on that), before crushing ISU tonight.
Big contributions for UNI:
Erik Crawford - 28 pts, 5-7 3-pt
Ben Jacobson - 27 pts, 5-9 3-pt
Eric Coleman - 24 pts, 10 reb
Brooks McKowen - 11 ast
I didn't get to see this one, so send me your impressions of UNI and ISU. Look for reactions from Hilton Magic and CrossCyed in the near future.
Iowa 91, Drake 75
Iowa's offensive onslaught continued Tuesday night with a 91-75 win against the Drake Bulldogs. Iowa shot 54% from the field and 79% from the line in a game where they had 52 points by halftime. There were some good things to take away from the game, but some concerns remain to be answered.
Starting center Erek Hansen did not play at all, apparently due to a sore hip, and the resulting lack of interior depth hurt Iowa all night. Drake's Aliou Keita took advantage inside, especially in the first half. He shot 11-17 for 23 points. He also grabbed 7 rebounds and blocked 5 Iowa shots. Unfortunately for Drake fans, Keita's teammates only shot 35%.
Doug Thomas started in place of Hansen, but after a couple quick fouls he went to the bench, where he would spend most of the game. Thomas only played 9 minutes, making an already thin frontline even weaker. I have yet to hear/read why Thomas played so little. Freshman Alex Thompson saw 13 minutes and even scored the first 4 points of his young career, but Iowa mostly compensated for the lack of big bodies by playing with an undersized lineup. Adam Haluska played plenty of minutes at the 4 in lineups that generally included 3 or 4 guards.
Aside from the interior defense, Iowa's main weakness was handling Drake's fullcourt press. The Bulldogs racked up 13 steals en route to forcing 19 Iowa turnovers. It was frustrating watching Iowa's passes repeatedly get deflected or seeing players not moving to meet a pass. It was easy to write off the performance against North Carolina's press because they were probably a team superior to those Iowa will play in the Big Ten, but tonight shows that the Hawkeyes need to work on breaking the press.
- Haluska led all Hawkeyes with 38 minutes, as his size was needed down low to keep Seth Gorney on the bench. Adam turned in another fine performance, scoring 21 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. He continues to get a lot of his points from the free throw line: 9-10 tonight, 11-13 against UNC, and 7-9 against Louisville. Watch out all you Haluska doubters (and there were plenty after the 2 pt game against Texas) - he's got 40 points in the last two games and is averaging 14 ppg on the season.
- Jeff Horner picked up right where he left off in Maui. He drained his first three 3-pointers (although he would miss his last 5) on his way to a 21 point game. He also chipped in with 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Ho hum, just another day at the office. His 6-8 shooting at the free throw line has me scratching my head, but oh well, I'll trade a few missed free throws for unconsciousness from downtown.
- Speaking of free throws, Iowa hit 23 of 29 of their freebies (79%). That was their best night at the line since shooting 20-20 in the season opener against Western Illinois. Amazing what happens when you limit Pierre Pierce's attempts. Pierce went 0-2 to drop his season FT% to 41%.
- Pierce scored a quiet 15 points. It was probably quiet to me since he scored most of his points in what was (to me) one of the most boring second halves ever. Timeouts galore and repeated fouling when down 15 with a minute to go just isn't my brand of basketball. And before I forget, Pierce had 8 turnovers. Eight TO! I could maybe see a point guard going up against an elite defense with 8 turnovers, but 8 from an off-guard against Drake?
- Once Iowa committed to the smaller lineup, Carlton Reed got into the game and saw a season-high 23 minutes of action. He once again took advantage, this time by dropping 14 points. His specialty is the 3-pointer, and he made 2-4 tonight, including a long desperation heave to beat the first half play clock.
If Erek Hansen had scored one more point in Iowa's four games, all five starters would be averaging at least 10 ppg. As it stands now:
Hansen is off to a blazing start with his blocked shots. He is only averaging 22 mpg (88 total minutes), but already has 16 blocks. He dominated the conference with 6.3 blocks/40 min last year, and has improved that to 7.3 so far this year. His 4.0 bpg leads the conference, with Michigan's Brent Petway second at 2.8.
Iowa has been hot from behind the three-point arc, shooting 42.4%, but they've allowed their opponents to shoot 42.7% from the same distance, which is last in the Big Ten.
Free throws have actually been decent (read: not horrible) so far. Iowa is hitting 71.4% at the line this year, good for third in the Big Ten. Top contributors have been Adam Haluska (20-24, 83%), Greg Brunner (14-17, 82%) and Doug Thomas (11-14, 79%). The black eye on the team is, you guessed it, Pierre Pierce (9-20, 45%). Last year's squad shot 67.2%.
News and Notes
The Big Ten named Jeff Horner its Player of the Week for his outstanding performance in the Maui Invitational (see Sunday's post).
Iowa slipped into the AP's top 25, coming in at #23. They were the top vote-getter among non-top 25 teams in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll (i.e. #26). Other Big Ten teams earning recognition (AP/ESPN): Illinois (3/5), Michigan State (9/11), Wisconsin (23/25), Michigan (30/38), Ohio State (NR/42), Indiana (NR/49).
Iowa plays Drake tonight at the Knapp Center in Des Moines, and has a 25-game winning streak against the Bulldogs. Iowa has proved (proven?) that a win at Drake doesn't always come easy - the last three games there were 78-74, 73-71, and 50-49. Let's hope Alford has the team ready to go and doesn't repeat last year's loss to an instate rival (UNI) after a hot start. At least he's saying the right things:
"I don't think it's going to be a situation where . . . we're going to overlook
them,'' Alford said. Alford also discounted a possible Hawaii hangover. The
Hawkeyes returned home Saturday and practiced immediately, then had practices
Sunday and Monday to prepare for tonight's game. "We have no excuses going into
this game,'' Alford said.
You also might want to check out Susan Harman's preview.
Maui All-Tournament Team
I finally made it back from the Thanksgiving trip, and tonight I took a quick look at the all-tournament team from last week's Maui Invitational. North Carolina won the tournament easily and was the only team with two players on the all-tournament squad. Jeff Horner led Iowa to two upsets and a berth in the championship game. The two remaining players played for teams that lost to Iowa but won their other two games in the tournament.
Raymond Felton, UNC........9.3 ppg...3.0 rpg...8.3 apg...2.3 spg...Tournament MVP
Rashad McCants, UNC....20.7 ppg...4.3 rpg...4.3 apg...1.7 spg...23-39 FG (59%)
Jeff Horner, Iowa............21.0 ppg...6.0 rpg...5.7 apg...1.7 spg...15-23 3-ptrs (65%)
Brad Buckman, Texas......12.0 ppg...8.3 rpg...1.7 apg...1.0 spg...24.7 mpg
Taquan Dean, Louisville....19.7 ppg...3.0 rpg...2.0 apg...1.0 spg...20-35 FG, 9-19 3-ptrs
Iowa held Dean to 8 points, who went on to score 21 and 30 in his next two games.
I still think you can make a case for Horner as Tournament MVP. He led the tournament in scoring and was the main reason Iowa found itself in the championship game. However, most of his numbers (18 pts, 9 reb, 5 ast) in that game came in the second half when the outcome was all but decided. His lack of productivity in the first-half was mainly due to Raymond Felton's stifling defense.
I think my main beef with Felton winning is the conventional wisdom that the MVP has to come from the winning team. The last time a Maui Invitational MVP came from a team that didn't win the tournament was 1992 (Penny Hardaway, Memphis State, was co-MVP), and there are only 4 such cases in the tournament's 21 year history. Felton certainly played well, but Horner's week was more impressive to me.