Iowa’s bench has outscored its starters in the last two Big Ten Conference basketball games. That shouldn’t be a surprise.
Heading into Saturday’s game against Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa’s bench has started a combined 166 times, more than the 124 of the starters.
Three reserves eat up most of those starts. Eric May has a team-high 70 starts, Melsahn Basabe has 52 and Zach McCabe 39. Josh Oglesby also has five career starts. Devyn Marble has the most career starts among the first five, with 49. Aaron White is next with 31. The other three starters — Anthony Clemmons, Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury — are all freshmen.
“A lot of times you go to your bench and you have tough guys, experienced guys that can help you win, but then you might have a scoring drought because you don’t have the offense,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “That’s why the guys who are starting are starting, typically.
“But we have, I think, equal performance coming off the bench in terms of offense. And in some games it might be even more, especially when Zach and Melsahn and Josh are playing the way they’re capable of playing.”
In a 62-59 loss Jan. 10 against Michigan State, McCabe scored a team-high 15 points and Basabe added 14. Those numbers were tilted, to some degree, because Marble sat out with an ankle injury. The bench outscored the starters 31-28.
In Sunday’s 70-50 victory at Northwestern, the bench outscored the starters 40-30. Oglesby was the team’s second-leading scorer off the bench with 14. Basabe added 11.
The Hawkeyes’ leading scorer has come off the bench in three of 17 games. It happened eight times last season and five times in 2010-11, McCaffery’s first season at Iowa.
Players have come off the bench to score in double figures 10 times. It happened 27 times last season and 14 times in 2010-11.
Wisconsin comes to Carver-Hawkeye on the heels of two victories over ranked teams in four days: a 74-51 pasting of No. 12 Illinois at home on Jan. 12 and Tuesday’s 64-59 victory at No. 2 Indiana. The Badgers have won seven consecutive games overall.
The Big Ten has six teams ranked in this week’s Associated Press Top 25. Wisconsin (4-0), the lone unbeaten, is not one of them.
“Very few teams are that experienced,” McCaffery said.
Iowa’s experience comes off the bench. Wisconsin’s comes in the starting lineup in a pair of fifth-year seniors, Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans, and senior Mike Bruesewitz. Evans has 52 career starts, Berggren has 53 and Bruesewitz 60. They are Wisconsin’s top three scorers and top three rebounders.
“Evans, Berggren, Bruesewitz, they’re all really good and they’re all really experienced, but they’re all different,” McCaffery said. “So you’ve got to understand who does what, and how we’re going to play them.”
Iowa, (12-5, 1-3) swept the Badgers last season for the first time since 1995. The last three games in Iowa City have been decided by one point or in overtime.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball