The scouting reports and final preparations were done last Tuesday. And then fate stepped in.
Iowa was hours away from tipping off a Big Ten men’s basketball game against Indiana at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind., when a 50-pound metal plate fell from the ceiling and forced postponement of the game. They’ll try it again at 8 p.m. Thursday (ESPN).
The 20th-ranked Hawkeyes flew directly to Bloomington after Tuesday’s 95-89 loss at Minnesota. Indiana returned home after a 69-58 loss at Wisconsin. And both scouting reports got some late-night touch-ups after coaches watched tape of each other’s game.
“It’s a bit unique in the sense that we haven’t played them,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “We only play them once. It would be different if it was the second time around, that type of thing. We’ll tweak (the scouting report) a little bit.”
So will Indiana coach Tom Crean.
“The bottom line is we’ll recall the Iowa prep (from last week),” Crean said. “Hopefully some of that is still fresh in their minds.”
Iowa, 19-8 overall and 8-6 in Big Ten play, is experiencing its first losing streak of the season. A 79-74 home loss to Wisconsin was followed by a game where the Hawkeyes’ defense got schooled by a Minnesota team that had been struggling offensively.
Indiana (15-12, 5-9) has also had its struggles on offense. The Hoosiers have the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer in Yogi Ferrell (19 points per game). They also have the Big Ten’s leading rebounder in freshman Noah Vonleh (9.1 rpg). Yet they’re 10th in the league in scoring.
Iowa has the Big Ten’s third-leading scorer in Devyn Marble (18.3 ppg) and is also the league’s top-scoring team (78.6 ppg). But the Hawkeyes are 10th in scoring defense (71.6 ppg).
Minnesota’s 95 points, on 61.2 percent shooting from the field, are the most Iowa has allowed in a Big Ten game this season. The previous high came when Wisconsin scored 79 on Saturday, which included 57.1 percent shooting the first half.
The Gophers’ 95 points also represented the most points Iowa has surrendered in its last 33 games against Big Ten competition, going back to a 95-67 loss at Michigan on Jan. 6, 2013.
McCaffery took a high-road approach to his team’s recent defensive shortcomings, instead giving the opponent credit for knocking down shots. But a two-game losing streak is the bottom line. The Hawkeyes lost three straight just once last season.
“We never get too high or too low,” McCaffery said. “If we had won at Minnesota, we’d take the same approach.”
McCaffery calls Assembly Hall “another tough place to play. Sometimes I wonder if they understand this league, and the atmosphere they walk into every night and how special it is. We’ve got another crack Thursday, and hopefully we’ll play well.”
Iowa is 4-3 on the road in Big Ten play, matching its record at home. A victory Thursday would give the Hawkeyes a winning conference road record for the first time since the 1997-98 season.
McCaffery said this week’s shoehorned schedule — Iowa also hosts Purdue Sunday — is something his players don’t mind.
“Sometimes we can be control freaks, and want more time and this and that,” McCaffery said. “But this is the time of year they want to play games. They don’t want to practice anymore. It’s the end of February. They’re tired of looking at each other. Let’s go play somebody else.”
Marble agrees with his coach’s take.
“I tell you guys all the time I like to play as much as possible,” Marble said. “From that standpoint, it’s good. And certainly, coming off a loss you want to get right back out there and try to get a win.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball