Hawkeye shooting guard Isaiah Moss says he needs to be stronger with the ball. Mark Emmert/HawkCentral
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa shooting guard Isaiah Moss scored at least 12 points in the first six games this season while facing increased defensive scrutiny.
So his two-point clunker in Tuesday’s loss at Virginia Tech shouldn’t necessarily be viewed with alarm. But the sophomore will have to counteract opponents who are determined to take away his 3-point shooting.
“They’re up into me more this year, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to see that the rest of the year,” Moss said Friday as the Hawkeyes (4-3) prepare to open Big Ten Conference play at 4 p.m. Saturday against Penn State (6-2). “I know what I’ve got to do now, be stronger with the ball.”
That means not just settling for 3-point attempts. Moss is 14-of-33 from the arc this year, but is also perhaps Iowa’s best driver. Look for him to start doing more of the latter.
Point guard Jordan Bohannon even pointed it out to Moss after that 79-55 blowout against the Hokies. Bohannon was shadowed from baseline to baseline in that one.
“Because there’s going to be a guy faceguarding me, (Moss is) going to have opportunities to go one-on-one, penetrate to the lane,” Bohannon said.
Moss said he’s ready. He even asked teammate Maishe Dailey, the team’s best perimeter defender, to guard him tighter this week in practice.
“We've got some other options, but Isaiah is the guy. He's going to start. He's going to play, and we're going to set him up. We're going to get him shots,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “I want him to shoot the ball. I have a lot of confidence in him.”
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Helping hand for Bohannon
Bohannon is averaging 14.1 points per game but has also noticed more intense gameplans aimed at slowing him down in his sophomore season.
“They’re guarding me 95 feet from the basket, and they’re faceguarding me and doing whatever they can for me to not even get the ball back,” Bohannon pointed out.
Opponents feel they can get away with overplaying Bohannon and Moss because the Hawkeyes have little depth behind their guards. Junior Brady Ellingson hasn’t been a factor this season, with neither a point nor an assist in his past four games. Iowa has lost three of those. Dailey has looked good at times, but averages only 14 minutes a game. Freshman Connor McCaffery is still out with mononucleosis.
Junior forward Nicholas Baer, back from a broken finger, knows he must help take some of the burden off Bohannon.
“Guys are going to be pressuring into him. We know that,” Baer said of Bohannon.
What can Baer do?
“I think it’s just trying to screen for him, trying to get him a bit more space. And also being a receiver for him to be able to swing the ball,” Baer said. “We want to have the ball in his hands, but when it gets stuck there for 4, 5, 6 seconds, then it really halts our offense.”
Iowa forward Nicholas Baer thinks he can set better screens, be a better receiver of passes to help his point guard, Jordan Bohannon. Mark Emmert/HawkCentral
McCaffery back next week?
Fran McCaffery said his son still hasn’t been cleared to fully participate in practice. Connor McCaffery, who figures to be Bohannon’s primary backup, hasn’t played in a game yet this season. He has been at practices going through non-contact drills this week.
“I think he'll be cleared to practice full next week. That was what I was told,” Fran McCaffery said. “So hopefully by Monday he'll be able to play with full go with contact without worrying about him getting hit.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery says shooting guard Isaiah Moss is coming off his first poor game of the season. Mark Emmert/HawkCentral
Cook takes direction
Iowa forward Tyler Cook said accepting honest feedback from his coaches is part of being an athlete. He doesn’t see it as optional.
This was after McCaffery had praised his sophomore star for how willing he is to try to get better. Cook is averaging 14.1 points and 6.6 rebounds this season.
“If he doesn't play well and you get on him, he doesn't fight you. He comes back, he grinds in practice,” McCaffery said of Cook. “He's a guy that has a reputation, and he doesn't expect the superstar treatment. He doesn't get it. We hold him accountable in film session like everybody else, and he reacts positively. He responds.
"That's what you want. You want a group of guys that have the character to do that. It's not a standard for everybody else and not me. No, it's a standard for everybody.”
Lions are loaded
The Nittany Lions feature five players who average in double figures in scoring. That total includes the sophomore trio of Tony Carr (21.3 points), Lamar Stephens (14.4) and Mike Watkins (10.0).
But McCaffery said junior forward Josh Reaves, at 11.4 points and 2.7 steals per game, is not to be overlooked.
“He plays both ends, plays with great energy, activity, good fit for those other three guys,” McCaffery said.
Penn State has seven players who average 19 minutes or more per game. The others are senior guard Shep Garner (10.1 ppg), sophomore guard Nazeer Bostick (7.4 ppg after missing the final six games last year with a broken hand) and freshman guard Jamari Wheeler (3.9 ppg), a three-star recruit.
Penn State will be a tough test for the Hawkeyes. The game will be televised on BTN.