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Saturday, January 22, 2005
 
Iowa 71, Purdue 57
The Big Ten scheduling gods were very good to Iowa this year. In addition to facing Michigan State and Wisconsin only once each, the Hawkeyes's first game after an exhausting 45 minute contest against Illinois was at home against one of the Big Ten's weakest teams. This allowed Iowa to rest several tired starters and give big minutes and added experience to their bench players in a game whose outcome was never in doubt.

Game Notes

Random Stuff

So, all in all, this was a good game for Iowa. Past Alford teams commonly "played to their opponent," meaning they were competitive against top teams but struggled when playing weaker teams. I'm getting a different feeling this year - they stayed with #1 Illinois, but beat Purdue easily, even with many of the starters playing reduced roles. There's also the Maui wins, plus the 30 point pounding of Texas Tech. There was the stretch of poor games against St. Louis, Michigan, and Ohio State, but I think Alford correctly diagnosed the team's problems and has the team ready to play good basketball the rest of the way.



Friday, January 21, 2005
 
Next Up - Purdue
I'm having a tough time finding the motivation to write a thorough preview of Saturday's game. Maybe it's because I still have the Illinois game on my mind, maybe it's because I'm not that excited to watch Purdue play here tomorrow. My only hope is that our team doesn't share my apathy. Playing 40 hours after a draining overtime game will be enough of a detriment to Iowa; no need to give Purdue any further advantage.

Purdue comes to Iowa City after losing their first five Big Ten games. Three of those were single-digit losses to Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan State, who happen to be the top three teams in the league. Here's a look at some of Purdue's season rate stats (Big Ten rank in parentheses) -

Pts / 100 Poss = 98 (11)
adjFG% = 0.459 (10)
TO / Poss = 0.214 (6)
Off reb rate = 0.330 (6)
FTA / FGA = 0.376 (6)

Poor shooting has been Purdue's downfall all year. Their roster includes a couple of the Big Ten's most inefficient shooters. They've out-Pierced Pierre, if you will. Here's is an update of the Pierre Pierce Rating (PPR) I created a while back. This is an attempt to spot the players who miss a lot of their shots but keep on shooting anyway.

Big Ten Leaders, PPR
David Teague, Purdue...............10.53
Brandon McKnight, Purdue.........9.64
Dion Harris, Michigan..................9.00
Bracey Wright, Indiana................8.12
Pierre Pierce, Iowa......................7.65
Deron Williams, Illinois................6.73
Tony Stockman, Ohio St.............6.70
Marlon Smith, Penn St................6.54
Robert Vaden, Indiana................6.53
Daniel Horton, Michigan..............6.07

I don't think that's a list that you ever want to see one of your players leading. Having #1 and #2 is a true tribute to offensive ineptitude. I should note that as more of Purdue's offensive possessions have gone to Carl Landry, Teague's shooting has gotten a little better. Teague is 7th in scoring in the Big Ten in conference games at nearly 16 ppg. He's shooting about 41% in those 5 games, raising his season FG% to 34% (ouch).

Speaking of leading scorers, this game features two of the Big Ten's best. Pierce and Landry are #1 (21.5 ppg) and #2 (20.4 ppg) in scoring average for conference games. Landry also leads the Big Ten in FG% at over 69%, fueled mostly by his 11-12, 31 point performance against Michigan State this week.

One more thing about Landry - he shoots a lot of free throws. He leads the Big Ten with 0.86 free throws for each shot attempt. Combine that with the fact that Doug Thomas and Erek Hansen are first and fifth in the conference in fouls per 40 minutes, and you've got a recipe for plenty of Landry freebies.

Well, I'm ready to throw in the towel. I'd like to think that the substance missing from this post will be made up for by tomorrow's game recap. Here's hoping that enough fans brave the cold and wind tomorrow to give some life to Carver-Hawkeye (though I'm not holding my breath).

Go Hawks!

Thursday, January 20, 2005
 
Illinois 73, Iowa 68 (OT)
Tell me that wasn't exciting - I think Buffalo Wild Wings was louder than most Carver-Hawkeye crowds. After stepping off the roller coaster that was the second half and overtime, I felt there were two ways to look at tonight's outcome. Obviously, there's the "we blew a great opportunity to knock off the #1 team" view. But there's also the "we made a great comeback against an excellent team in Assembly Hall and came up just short" outlook. Being the indifferent character that I am, I'll ride the fence throughout my post.

First, some positive notes. Yesterday (this morning?) I looked at a few things I thought Iowa could do to maximize their chances of victory (which were decidedly more concrete than Steve Lavin's "catch a break" gem). Did Iowa follow the Hawkeye Hoops plan of attack?

One of my keys was establishing a perimeter game. It was doubtful that Iowa could hold all of Illnois's shooters in check, and they didn't want to be in a situation of trading twos for threes. Enter Adam Haluska and Jeff Horner. Two guys who had been as cold as Embarrass, MN managed to hit 50% of their threes. Even Pierre Pierce dropped a couple deep shots on the left wing.

Find a shooter.......check.

One suggested strategy was to drive to the basket and get some Illini starters in foul trouble, forcing the Illini to use their thin bench. It seemed like Haluska heeded my advice and was trying to penetrate and draw contact, but he just couldn't get the calls in the second half. Iowa did manage to get Dee Brown and Deron Williams in a little foul trouble. Williams picked up his fourth with about 8:30 left in regulation, but still only missed about six minutes of the game. Brown picked up his third early in the second half and only played 30 of the game's 45 minutes.

Get Illinois in foul trouble..........so-so.

Next key to victory - limit Illinois's offensive rebounds. Hmmmm. Iowa gave up a lot of offensive boards (18), but Illinois also missed a lot of shots (45 FG and 2 live FT). So the Hawks let Illinois retain 38% of their missed attempts. More than you like to see, but not enough to put you away. Big Jack Ingram (check out that 'stache!) grabbed 4 offensive boards in only 12 minutes, and James Augustine added four of his own, giving Illinois 18 offensive rebounds to Iowa's 29 defensive rebounds. Is there anything as frustrating as holding a great offense in check for 30 seconds and then having Augustine pull the rebound away from Hansen?

Keep Illinois off the offensive glass.........so-so.

Related to that (but not mentioned yesterday), Iowa's offensive rebounding was anemic. They managed 9 offensive rebounds, or 24% of their chances.

One more thing I suggested - avoid careless turnovers. Iowa had 22 turnovers in about 81 possessions. Yikes, that's a 27% TO rate. You're not going to beat Northwestern with a performance like that, let alone Illinois. I know Pierce was going back to his home state and wanted to play hero and everything. Heck, I'll even give him credit for keeping Iowa in the game with a lot of his big shots. But how many potential points did he cost the team with his 7 TO's and futile 1-on-2 and 1-on-3 drives? And Horner doesn't get off the hook either - he had at least a couple terrible passes en route to 5 TO's. Give Illinois's trapping some credit too.

Eliminate stupid mistakes.........is that possible with Pierce playing 45 minutes?

In a surprising twist, it was free throws that made the biggest difference. Illinois shot 19 more free throws than Iowa, which I never would have expected. Iowa came in basically tied with Penn St for first in the Big Ten for FTA/FGA, while Illinois trailed everyone but Ohio St. Missed free throws also kept Iowa in the game, as Williams and Brown combined to miss 3 of 4 in the last minute of regulation.

So yes, Iowa certainly had a chance to steal a win from a great team, but shot themselves in the foot with their turnovers and poor rebounding.

But there are positives to draw from the game, too. Iowa held the country's best offense to 37 adjFG% on 22-67 FG and 6-28 3ptrs. They also forced 18 turnovers from one of the best ballhandling teams around. That's a 22% TO rate if you're scoring at home, or if you're by yourself. Iowa has held it's last two opponents to a combined 38 adjFG%. You have to like that.

You also have to like the upcoming schedule - Purdue, @ Northwestern, Indiana. Iowa looks like a team that should be better than its 1-3 conference record, but the next three games give them a good shot at climbing back above .500 and into the first tier of Big Ten teams.

Coming tomorrow or Saturday - preview of Saturday's Purdue game.

 
Up Next - #1 Illinois
Iowa Hawkeyes (13-3) at Illinois Fighting Illini (18-0)
Champaign, IL
6:05 CST, ESPN

National Rank in Parentheses
.......................................Iowa..........................Illinois
Pts / G..........................78.3 (28)..................81.9 (14)
Pts All / G.......................68.5.........................62.2
Poss / G.......................71.3 (56)..................65.5 (239)
Offensive Eff................110 (68)...................125 (1)
Defensive Eff.................96.............................95
adjFG%.......................0.533 (55)................0.582 (5)
FG%............................0.474 (56)................0.507 (11)
3pt%...........................0.390 (51)................0.407 (20)
TO / poss...................0.210 (82)................0.163 (2)
Oreb rate...................0.306 (263)..............0.372 (62)
FTA / FGA..................0.440 (32)................0.268 (314)
3ptA / FGA.................0.304 (226)..............0.366 (73)

A mere 16 days ago, many fans (myself included) were eagerly anticipating a matchup between 15-1 Iowa and 18-0 Illinois. It would be a battle to determine who was in the driver's seat for the Big Ten title. Illinois held up their end of the deal, but Iowa has since lost two of its first three conference games. Iowa's last game against Minnesota appeared to be a confidence builder, but they'll need more than that if they plan to stay in the game tonight.

As mentioned here this week, Illinois's offensive prowess comes mainly from great shooting and a miniscule turnover rate. Iowa has been off and on shooting, but they are one of the Big Ten's best at getting to the free throw line. It was this propensity that allowed them to hold off Minnesota on Saturday when the Hawks ended the game on a nearly 11 minute field goal drought.

What are Iowa's chances?
"Not good."
"Not good like one in a hundred?"
"I'd say more like one in a million."
"So you're telling me there's a chance!"
- Dumb and Dumber

Heh, had to slip that in there. Seriously, though, Iowa's odds are slim, but that doesn't mean that a win is impossible. Ken Pomeroy's rating system gives Iowa an 11% chance of winning. For that small miracle to actually occur, several things will have to go right for Iowa. Here are a few things Iowa can do to improve their chances of winning.

1) Keep Illinois off the offensive glass. I'm looking in your direction, Erek Hansen. Allowing offensive rebounds killed Iowa in the loss to Michigan. Iowa allowed them to rebound 57% of their misses in that game. Unbelievable. Given the low frequency of Illinois's missed shots and turnovers, Iowa cannot afford to let them continue possessions through offensive rebounds.
To illustrate - let's assume there are 70 possessions in the game tomorrow. Let's also assume that Illinois has 10 TO and Iowa 15 TO. That means Iowa is already down 5 possessions. They'll either have to shoot better than Illinois or shoot more free throws to make up that difference in opportunities. When you're trying to overcome that difference, allowing an offensive rebound is just a kick in the (insert painful target here).

2) Find a shooter. Easier said than done, of course. But if Iowa is going to keep it close, I think Horner or Haluska will have to re-discover that shooting touch. I doubt Iowa can suppress all of Illinois's shooters, so some Hawkeye will need to counter with threes of his own.

3) Attack the basket / draw fouls. I could be wrong, but Illinois's roster doesn't look very deep. Almost all of the production comes from the five starters. It would really help to get one of them in foul trouble to reduce at least one of the offensive threats.

4) Eliminate stupid mistakes. I think you know who that's directed at. I'm just cringing at the thought of Pierce taking on too many defenders, Illinois snatching the errant pass and running full-speed ahead to the other end for an easy basket. Iowa's margin for error is tiny, so they better play smart and maximize their chances.

I'm looking forward to a good game. It wasn't that long ago that Iowa's backcourt was drawing comparisons to the opposing trio. A national TV audience gives them a great chance to rekindle the debate.

 
Samsonite....I Was Way Off
I was working on some of Dean Oliver's calculations for defensive ratings today, and the disparity between offensive and defensive ratings seemed a little improbable.

I scanned through the formulas for offensive ratings, points produced, individual possessions, and all that good stuff, and I found a noteworthy error. I was using the wrong weight in one formula, which resulted in understating offensive rebounding contributions and overstating field goals, assists, and free throws.

When I recalculated, most players' offensive rating dropped 8-12 points per 100 possessions. Thought I'd let you know before I trot those stats out again later this week.

Here's a revamped top 15 so you can see how the more efficient end of the range looks.

Big Ten Leaders, Offensive Rating (min 8 pts produced per game)
Luther Head, Ill........................138
Kelvin Torbert, MSU................138
James Augustine, Ill................137
Alan Anderson, MSU...............135
Dee Brown, Ill...........................134
Roger Powell Jr., Ill..................134
Chris Hill, MSU.........................133
Adam Haluska, Iowa................127
J.J. Sullinger, OSU..................126
D.J. White, Ind.........................124
Maurice Ager, MSU.................124
Ivan Harris, OSU.....................124
Vincent Grier, Minn.................122
Carl Landry, Pur......................122
Jeff Horner, Iowa.....................121

As always, don't forget about the % of possessions caveat. It's easier to be more efficient when using fewer of your team's possessions. In fact, Landry is the only player on this list who leads his team in possessions used.

Still confused by terms like possessions, offensive rating, or points produced? Be sure to check out the Hawkeye Hoops Stats Glossary or send a question.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
 
Individual Offense, Iowa/Illinois
As promised, today's post takes a look at the individual offensive contributions of Illinois (and Iowa) players, as measured by the statistical creations of Dean Oliver. Let's get all the numbers out of the way before any commentary. New readers will likely benefit from perusing the Hawkeye Hoops Stats Glossary. Bold print indicates the Big Ten leader in a category.

ILLINOIS
Name..........................MPG...Floor%...Off Rate...%Poss...Pts/G...Reb/G...Ast/G...TO/G
Luther Head...............31.9....0.573..........150.......21.0%.....16.3........4.0.........4.4.........1.4
Deron Williams...........32.0....0.492..........122.......26.5%.....13.4........3.7.........7.0.........2.9
Dee Brown.................31.6....0.561..........146.......19.3%.....13.3........2.7.........5.2.........1.9
Roger Powell Jr..........24.9....0.642..........140.......19.8%.....12.9........5.2.........0.4.........0.7
James Augustine........24.2....0.669..........139.......18.3%.......9.8........7.3.........1.3.........1.1
Nick Smith...................12.8....0.478..........102.......21.8%.......4.3........2.7.........0.8.........0.7
Rich McBride...............16.7....0.418..........120.......11.6%.......3.9........1.5.........0.8.........0.6
Jack Ingram.................13.7....0.537..........115.......14.9%.......3.5........2.8.........0.5.........0.5

IOWA
Name..........................MPG...Floor%...Off Rate...%Poss...Pts/G...Reb/G...Ast/G...TO/G
Pierre Pierce..............32.8....0.468..........104.......30.8%.....17.9........5.8.........3.9.........3.9
Jeff Horner.................34.9....0.507..........130.......19.9%.....14.1........4.6.........5.8.........2.6
Adam Haluska............27.6....0.543..........137.......18.0%.....13.1........3.4.........1.3.........1.1
Greg Brunner.............29.8....0.547..........116.......21.9%.....13.0........8.1.........2.3.........2.4
Erek Hansen...............23.5....0.478............99.......16.6%.......6.9........3.1.........0.7.........1.3
Doug Thomas.............14.9....0.582..........116.......15.0%......4.7........4.2.........0.4.........0.9
Mike Henderson..........15.4....0.442............96........16.3%......3.8........1.4.........1.2.........1.3
Carlton Reed..............10.4....0.490..........122........13.3%.......3.1........0.9........0.4.........0.4

As always, floor percentage measures how many of a player's individual possessions contribute to the team scoring at least one point. Offensive rating is how many points a player produces per 100 individual possessions. Points can be produced through field goals, free throws, assists, and offensive rebounds.

Here's a few lists to familiarize you with each of the non-traditional numbers.

Big Ten Leaders, Floor % (minimum 8 ppg)
James Augustine, Ill...................0.669
Roger Powell Jr., Ill....................0.642
Alan Anderson, MSU.................0.616
D.J. White, Ind............................0.612
Kelvin Torbert, MSU.................0.607
J.J. Sullinger, OSU.....................0.590
Carl Landry, Pur........................0.587
Paul Davis, MSU........................0.583
Terence Dials, OSU...................0.577
Luther Head, Ill.........................0.573

Big Ten Leaders, Offensive Rating (min 8 ppg)
Luther Head, Ill..................150.........21.0%
Kelvin Torbert, MSU.........150.........18.3%
Dee Brown, Ill.....................146.........19.3%
Chris Hill, MSU...................145.........18.6%
Alan Anderson, MSU.........142.........21.9%
Roger Powell Jr., Ill............140.........19.8%
James Augustine, Ill...........139.........18.3%
Adam Haluska, Iowa..........137.........18.0%
Maurice Ager, MSU............131.........22.9%
Je'Kel Foster, OSU..............131.........15.4%

As tends to happen, the leaders in floor % are generally post players, and the leaders in offensive rating are generally perimeter players. That Illinois has two post players on the offensive rating leader board is a testament to the team's offensive efficiency.

Big Ten Leaders, % of Team Possessions Used (min 8 ppg)
Pierre Pierce, Iowa............104...........30.8%
Michael Thompson, NW......95...........29.5%
Chris Hunter, Mich............115...........28.3%
Bracey Wright, Ind............112...........28.2%
Carl Landry, Pur................124...........27.1%
Deron Williams, Ill.............122...........26.5%
Matt Kiefer, Pur..................98............25.9%
Jeff Hagen, Minn................116...........25.7%
Tony Stockman, OSU........108...........25.5%
Alando Tucker, Wisc..........120...........25.4%

OK, I threw out a few more numbers than I was originally planning, but I wanted to highlight the relationship between a player's offensive rating and the per cent of his team's possessions that he uses. Notice that the players with the highest ratings are not ball hogs, and that none of the players with high possession numbers have really high offensive ratings. Each player generally becomes more efficient when he uses fewer of his team's possessions.

Also note that the % of poss. numbers represent the amount of team's possessions a player uses while he is in the game. Chris Hunter has only the 4th highest number of possessions on Michigan's team, but at only 20.5 mpg, he has the team's highest possessions to minutes ratio.

What do the numbers say?
First, Illinois has a very efficient offense (as you might remember from yesterday). The Big Ten average for floor % is about 0.500, and 109 for offensive rating. Illinois has several players well above both marks. Deron Williams leads the team in both shot attempts and turnovers, so it makes sense that he leads the team in possessions used. Dee Brown has 240 points to Williams's 241, so it also makes sense that Brown has a much higher offensive rating. Brown and Head have been great shooters (1st and 4th in the Big Ten in adjFG%), and their low TO rates combine to give them the great offensive ratings.

Iowa is "led" by a rather inefficient player, Pierre Pierce. His missed shots, free throws, and turnovers lead to a floor % that is far below league average. He's definitely not the guy you want using over 30% of your team's possessions. Horner and Haluska have been brights spots, but both tend to disappear when someone doesn't create an open shot for them. Erek Hansen has been futile on offense, especially in the Big Ten, but his perceived value to the defense keeps him in the starting lineup.

I'll leave you to the numbers - I need to tend to some homework.

Before I forget, I should alert you to some Illini blogs that I enjoy. Check them out if you haven't already. Illini Wonk, Illinitalk, and Mark Tupper all provide excellent coverage of the nation's #1 team.

Monday, January 17, 2005
 
Kicking Off Illinois Week
Iowa's defense was the main reason it was able to hold off Minnesota on Saturday. That defense will get its biggest test of the season as it goes on the road to challenge the nation's best offense on Thursday. That's right - the best offense in the country. Better than North Carolina. Better than Washington or Wake Forest or anyone else.

How good is Illinois's offense, you ask? Scary good. Illinois is averaging 125 points per 100 possessions, which is the best rate in D-I basketball.

(You might note that Ken Pomeroy rates Illinois as number 2 at about 122 pts / 100 poss. His calculation comes from averaging a team's efficiency for each game. As an example, Illinois would have a points/possession figure for each of their 18 games. Those 18 rates would be averaged to arrive at the 122 figure. I use a team's total points and their aggregate season possessions to make my calculations.)

What makes their offense so good? You'll probably recall this blog's mention of the Four Factors, or the four components that Dean Oliver determined most affect offensive performance. In order of importance, the Four Factors are -
1) Shooting effectiveness, or adjFG%
2) Limiting turnovers, measured by TO / poss
3) Rebounding your own misses, measured by Oreb / (Oreb + Opp Dreb)
4) Getting to the free throw line, measured by FTA / FGA -or- FTM / FGA

Illinois has been very effective at shooting the ball. Their adjFG% of 0.582 is 5th best in the country. Dee Brown, Luther Head, James Augustine and Roger Powell, Jr. all rank among the Big Ten's ten best in this category.

Another important factor in Illinois's success is their ability to hang on to the basketball. They turn the ball over on only 16.3% of their possessions, which is the second lowest rate in the country. So in any given game, where both teams always have the same number of possessions (give or take one or two), Illinois will almost always have more looks at the basket (lower TO rate), and will score more points on their opportunities (higher adjFG%). That's a deadly combination.

For teams that aren't as successful at shooting, offensive rebounding is more important because it gives the team more chances to shoot. Although Illinois is a great shooting team, they're no slouch at rebounding. They rank about 65th nationally, rebounding 38% of their missed field goals and free throws. I saw "about 65th" because I haven't been gathering data on opponent rebounding totals (as needed for the above Oreb rate formula). I use an approximation that usually calculates a team's rebounding rate within 1% of their true rate.

Illinois is much less successful at getting to the free throw line, ranking 301st nationally in FTM/FGA. Only James Augustine cracks the Big Ten's top 20 in this category. I assume that Illinois's success on jump shots decreases their incentive to attack the basket, leading to fewer free throws. Since Luther Head and Dee Brown are both shooting 46% on threes and are two of Illinois's primary weapons, this assumption makes some sense. Also, the press makes a big deal of how the team's passing leads to open shots. Maybe there's something to that - being wide open on more of your shot attempts would seem to mean shooting fewer free throws, all else equal.

To wrap up, let's look at the box score from Illinois's game at Northwestern last Saturday. The first thing we want to do is determine the pace of the game to put everything else in context.

Ill = 61 FGA - 14 Oreb + 8 TO + 0.4 x 16 FTA = 60.4
NW = 42 FGA - 4 Oreb + 16 TO + 0.4 x 16 FTA = 61.4

Averaging the two gives us a game with about 61 possessions - slower than most Big Ten games, but about what you'd expect for a Northwestern game. Northwestern was very hot, shooting 24-42 FG and 8-16 3pt, for a sizzling adfFG% of 67%. Illinois "only" shot 55 adjFG%, but still won by 12. How so?

They took advantage of two of their strengths - turnover rate and offensive rebounding. They only had 8 turnovers on their 61 possessions, or 13%, compared to NW's 26%. They also grabbed 44% of their offensive rebound chances, compared to NW's 21%. Illinois's edge in these two categories gave them 19 more field goal attempts than NW. It's hard to imagine Illinois being outscored when they have that many more opportunities than their opponent.

Coming tomorrow - a look at floor %, offensive ratings and more for each of Illinois's regulars.

 
Poll Position
Iowa moved up one spot to #23 in the latest AP poll. Wisconsin claimed the #24 spot, giving the Big Ten four teams among the top 25.

School............................AP..................Coaches...............Pomeroy
Illinois..............................1.........................1.............................1
Michigan State..............19.......................12...........................12
Iowa..............................23.......................23...........................23
Wisconsin....................24.......................28...........................31
Minnesota.....................NV......................41...........................28

 
Former Hawk Tossed From Practice
I don't usually talk about what former Hawkeye players are up to, but this was too good to pass up. Ricky Davis of the Boston Celtics got thrown out of practice yesterday by head coach Doc Rivers.
The Celtics' coach first pointed toward the trainer's room door and said, ``Get
out.'' When Davis stopped to argue from the doorway, Rivers barked, ``Go
home.''
Davis apparently started swearing and complaining about the officiating during the Celtics scrimmage, which was held in front of a group of area high school students. Classy. Non-Hawk fans might/might not remember that Davis left Iowa City for the NBA after averaging 15 ppg as a freshman in 1998, a decision that did not sit well with many Iowa fans.

Sunday, January 16, 2005
 
Feelin' Good
The lead sentence of Randy Peterson's article in the Sunday DM Register used 10 words to describe a feeling that yesterday took me over 1,300 words to express - "All is well again with the Iowa men's basketball team." Steve Batterson of the QC Times was even more succint - "Looks aren't everything."

If you saw nothing but the box score from Saturday's game against Minnesota, those statements would clearly be difficult to reconcile. Iowa shot 19-55 from the field and 5-21 on threes for an atrocious adjFG% of 39%. They managed only 66 points on about 72 possessions, for an offensive rating of 92. And yet this from Greg Brunner -
“It looked great to me. It looked like a lot of guys out there having some
fun, playing hard and having a good time. It was exactly what we needed.”
Huh? I normally shy away from discussing intangibles and subjective factors of performance, but I have to agree with Peterson, Batterson and Brunner. When I was at the game, the level of play was sharp enough that I didn't notice the shooting woes. Players were hustling for loose balls and playing great defense, and the team was getting, for the most part, good looks at the basket on offense. I think missing good shots can be better than making bad ones, in the long term. If Horner and Haluska keep getting decent looks, they won't stay cold forever. Coach Alford concurs -
“There are games when you wonder why we took this shot or that shot, but I
didn’t have that feeling. I thought we were getting the shots we wanted to get,
but they just weren’t falling.”
Another thing I didn't notice during the game was that Iowa went the last 10:45 of the game without a field goal. But really, who needs field goals when you attempt 24 free throws in that stretch?

Coach Alford identifed his team's problem in the first two games as a lack of energy and enthusiasm, and the team worked double-time on their week off to take care of the situation.
“We worked all week to get our energy and spirit back, and I saw that against a
team that came here with a great deal of confidence. We got to loose balls, we
blocked seven shots and had 10 steals. We didn’t make a lot of shots, but we did
a lot of other things well.”
With that problem taken care of, and given the way the team played yesterday, I'm confident that the last two games were an aberration and that the team that started 12-1 is the one we're more likely to see going forward. Now if only we weren't going forward to 18-0 Illinois..........

Note - All quotes taken from Batterson article


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