BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The time has come for Eric May to say goodbye.
“Bittersweet, going back to Carver-Hawkeye Arena,” May, the lone senior on Iowa’s basketball team, said after Saturday’s 73-60 loss at No. 1 Indiana.
The Hawkeyes will play their final two regular-season games this week, hosting Illinois Tuesday and Nebraska Saturday.
“It’s a great way to end the season, having two home games,” said May, who had 12 points and seven rebounds against the Hoosiers. “I’m lucky for that. But I don’t want those games to come.”
Saying goodbye to one of the loves of your life is never easy, but two victories would temper the sadness. It would mean a 20-win season for Iowa for the first time since 2005-06. A 9-9 Big Ten record. And a chance to avoid the No. 8-No. 9 game in the first round of next week’s Big Ten Tournament in Chicago, Ill., which would mean a second-round date with the top seed.
The Hawkeyes have made significant strides in May’s swan-song season. The proof is in this post-game assessment from coach Fran McCaffery as he acknowledged his team’s continual struggles on offense.
“What has kept us in every game is our defense and our rebounding and our toughness,” McCaffery said.
Toughness has been an on-going issue in the program since McCaffery took over in 2010-11.
The famous chair slam last season at Michigan State put an exclamation point on that lack of toughness. Iowa got outrebounded by an average of 33.7 to 32.9 in Big Ten games last season. This year’s team has a 37.6-36.5 edge.
Iowa was the Big Ten’s worse defensive team last season, allowing 72.5 points in all games and 71.6 points in league games. This year’s team has cut those numbers to 63.5 points in all games and 65.4 in league games.
At the same time, the offense has gone south. Iowa’s 66 points a game in league play is down from 67.8 a year ago. The .393 field-goal percentage is down from .452. And the .280 percentage from 3 is down from .379. In all games, Iowa’s scoring average has dipped from 73.0 to 70.9.
“I challenged this team at the start of the year to make changes defensively,” McCaffery said. “I felt like if we had any chance to win enough games to get to the postseason, we had to play defense. It’s easy to look at the close losses and stuff like that. But this team has defended. We have struggled offensively at times. Everybody knows that. But they are trying to execute, trying to get better.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball