Some folks wonder what is to be gained by playing one of the worst teams in Division I basketball. That’s what Iowa did on Thursday night, as Maryland-Eastern Shore came into the game ranked 346 out of 351 schools, according to Ken Pomoroy.
While this game did nothing positive for Iowa’s RPI, it was as another step on the road for the Hawkeyes and I saw several encouraging things.
AARON WHITE: I really wanted to see White expand his floor game this year and he did some of that in this contest. He hit a short corner baseline shot in the first hand and in the second, he caught the ball near the three-point line and took a drive in towards the right elbow, pulled up and stuck a 15-footer. He had his share of hustle points and four dunks, but the jump shot is what I was hoping to see this year and we got a taste of it on Thursday. White scored 16 points in the first half in just 13 minutes and finished the game with 22 points in just 17 minutes and he was 9-10 from the floor. He looks incredibly confident on the floor and at times, it seems like he is toying with the opponent.
THREE-POINTERS: Iowa entered the game shooting less than 27-percent from three-point range. They knocked down 7-17 from the night, which improved their season percentage to 32.6%. That’s still south of where I hope to see Iowa shoot on the season but it was a step in the right direction as Iowa shot just over 30% lat season. If this team can knock down 35% of its three’s this year, they will be playing for seed, not just the dance.
JARROD UTHOFF: This is where the ‘competition’ line has to be drawn, but Jarrod Uthoff continues to impress the heck out of me. He has great ball skills and a real savvy to his game. That’s not just another white guy adjective; I like his floor game a great deal. He recorded a double-double, the first of his Iowa career, with 11 points and 11 boards.
ASSISTS: Iowa had 12 assists on 20 field goals in the first half, which is a huge number. For the game, they had 24 on 35 field goals. One of the BTN analysts made the comment ‘this team really looks like it enjoys playing with one another. They make the extra pass all of the time.’ That seems to be the case. There doesn’t appear to be a selfish player on the team.
Here are a few thoughts on some players not yet mentioned…
Adam Woodbury: Four points and six rebounds in 19 minutes. I know this may sound counterintuitive, but I believe his production will increase as the level of competition increases. His skills are better this year and he has a bigger body. He’s probably not going to explode into the type of player some are hoping he can be, this year. That said, he doesn’t have to be and just needs to learn to stay within himself and stay on the floor because even if he isn’t scoring in buckets, Iowa is usually a better team with him on the floor.
Mike Gesell: He had eight points in 17 minutes but it was his first two shots that I liked to see most; they were three points and he never hesitated. Both found the bottom of the well and then he scored on a dribble drive right to the rack. Those eight points came in a span of 01:34 and this had to be a great outing for his confidence. It was also a night where he moved back to the point guard role. Coincidence?
Peter Jok: He scored 11 but Jok is the only player out there who appears as though he is hunting for shots. That said, McCaffery could be giving his young shooter the green light in order to accelerate his development. He was 1-5 from the floor and a few of his misses were forced shots, but he was a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. He’s averaging 17.7 minutes per game and has the second most field goal attempts (24) on the team. That’s eight per game.
Devyn Marble: He hit a three-pointer right off the top of the game, was active on the defensive end (four steals) and five assists in 18 minutes. When he went to the bench for good early in the second half, he sat on the floor and later was laying on the floor, reminiscent of players who are dealing with back pain. Marble has acknowledged a gimpy hip and that’s probably leading to some back discomfort.
Anthony Clemmons: He had four assists in 13 minutes. He’s a great role player for this team and will grow into even more of a luxury off the bench.
Gabe Olaseni: He was very active and rewarded, as he scored 10 points and grabbed five rebonds to go along with three blocks in just 13 minutes of play.
More notes from the game: Iowa has now won 22-straight home games against unranked opponents, dating back to March 13, 2012 — the third-longest active streak in the Big Ten. The win is also Iowa’s 19th straight at home versus nonconference opponents.
Iowa scored 56 points in the first half. That is the most points ever scored in the first half under Fran McCaffery. Iowa’s 109 points is the second highest point total under Fran McCaffery.
Seven Hawkeyes recorded double figures in scoring. They include: Basabe (12), White (22), Marble (10), Olaseni (10), McCabe (11), Jok (10) and Uthoff (11).
Iowa’s next opponent is Abilene Christian, ranked 338th in the nation…so yes, another bad team is coming into Iowa City. After that it’s a home game against Penn and then on to Atlantis. Don’t rip on the schedule too much; Iowa has 17 games left (out of 31 regular season games) against teams currently ranked in Pomeroy’s Top 50, 11 games against teams who are in the Top 30 and games against teams ranked in the Top 15, including a possible ninth if they made it to the title game in Atlantis and Kansas does the same.