IOWACITY, Ia. – Fran McCaffery came to Iowa as an offense-first coach. With a season-and-a-half of Big Ten basketball under his belt, he sees no reason to change.
“I don’t mind being in a 103-89 game,” said McCaffery, whose team hosts Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I just don’t want to have 89.”
That’s what happened Sunday, when Indiana scored 103 to drop Iowa to 3-6 in the Big Ten and 11-11 overall. Iowa’s defense, especially against the dribble-drive, left a lot to be desired Sunday.
“Ultimately it comes down to toughness,” McCaffery said. “And we lack that right now, I don’t mind saying that. We don’t have the toughness that’s necessary to defend in this league. And somehow it’s incumbent upon me and my staff to get our guys to not only be able to execute fundamentally, but to be more physical, be tougher, and do it more consistently.”
McCaffery inherited a team that had finished last in the Big Ten in scoring in 2009-10 at 57.9 points, and failed to score more than 50 points nine times. In five seasons at Siena, McCaffery’s teams all ranked in the Top 50 nationally in scoring, averaging at least 74.4 points a game.
His current Iowa team is averaging 74.5 points a game, the most since the 1997-98 Tom Davis-coached team averaged 80.2. Four of McCaffery’s five Siena teams also allowed more than 70 points a game.. The current team is last in the Big Ten in defense, allowing 77 points a game to league foes.
“I want to score more, so I’m going to give up more,´’ McCaffery said. “I’m OK with that. But you can’t have stretches where they’re scoring 11 possessions in a row, or 21 out of 25. I don’t care what your philosophy is. You can’t win playing defense that way.”
McCaffery plays a style that is comparable to the 13 Iowa teams coached by Davis from 1986-87 to 1998-99. Seven of those teams under Davis averaged more than 80 points a game, and led the Big Ten in scoring three times. Four of his teams also allowed at least 80 points and nine of them allowed at least 70.
“With any philosophy, you have to stick to it,” said Davis, who favored pressure defense and the fast break. “There will be good nights and bad nights, but you have to stay committed to your style.”
In six seasons as Iowa coach (1964-65 through 1969-70), Ralph Miller’s teams averaged better than 80 points a game five times. Every one of his teams yielded at least 71.5 points a game, and the 1969-70 team gave up 90.3 in conference play and allowed six teams to score triple digits.
But that 1969-70 team won the title with a 14-0 record because it averaged 102.9 points against Big Ten foes and scored at least 100 six times.
“To be honest with you, I’ve never gone through with any team I’ve ever been associated with what we’re going through now,” McCaffery said. “I am really working hard to try and get it corrected, and there’s a couple ways to do that. You can obviously work on drills…ultimately you’ve got to put it together.”
WHO: Minnesota (16-6, 4-5 Big Ten) at Iowa (11-11, 3-6)
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City.
TIPOFF: 7:30 p.m.
TICKETS:$20 adults, $10 18-under; UI students free.
TELEVISION: Big Ten Network.
RADIO: WHO-AM (1040), Des Moines and Hawkeye Radio Network.
STAT LEADERS: For Minnesota — Rodney Williams 10.6 ppg, Williams 5.6 rpg, Julian Welch 2.5 apg; For Iowa — Matt Gatens 13.5 ppg; Melsahn Basabe 5.1 rpg; Bryce Cartwright 4.2 apg.
ABOUT THE GOPHERS: Minnesota has won four of its last five Big Ten games after starting 0-4 including a 64-62 home loss to Iowa.
ABOUT THE HAWKEYES: Gatens needs three more 3-pointers to reach 200 for his career.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Iowa opponents have shot 18.3 percent from 3 in the Hawkeyes’ three league wins, but 36.9 percent in Iowa’s six league losses.
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Rick Brown — who covers the Iowa men’s basketball team for The Des Moines Register — hosts a live chat on most Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m.
Rick also tweets during the games he covers. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RickBrownDMR
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball