Iowa basketball takeaways: Versatility key to defensive improvement; turnovers a problem

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Four games into the season, the Iowa men’s basketball team has shown vast defensive improvement.

Opponents are shooting 40.2 percent from the field, including 26.5 percent from the 3-point arc. Last season, those numbers were 46.2 and 37.6.

One of the keys has been the number of players between 6-foot-5 and 6-7 who can guard any of four positions on the court. That kind of flexibility was paramount last week, when the No. 22 Hawkeyes (4-0) defeated a large Oregon team and a smaller, quicker Connecticut squad on back-to-back days in New York.

“I think we have the defensive versatility to defend any team in the country, no matter how big or how small, how quick or how strong. We have a really good mix of all of that,” Hawkeye junior guard Maishe Dailey said Monday.

Iowa guard Maishe Dailey (1) has helped the Hawkeyes frustrate their first four opponents this year, including Connecticut's Jalen Adams. With plenty of size on the wings, Iowa has the versatility to match up with any team in the country, Dailey said.

Dailey is 6-7 and often at the top of Iowa’s press, where he can make life difficult for opposing guards with his wingspan and quickness. Isaiah Moss is 6-5, Connor McCaffery 6-6, Joe Wieskamp 6-6 and Nicholas Baer 6-7.

“It's especially important because of the downshifting that everybody is doing across the board, and everybody is playing small,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “We can switch if we have to. We can play different lineups if we have to.”

No. 20 Oregon made just 17 of 45 shots inside the arc (37.8 percent); Connecticut went a mere 4-for-26 from 3-point range (15.4 percent).

Dailey said it was great to see the hard work the Hawkeyes have put in on defense pay dividends in high-profile games like those in the 2K Classic tournament.

“It was probably more so for the fans. Because it was like, ‘Oh, they can finally play defense now,’” Dailey said. “But we all knew that we could. We’ve been doing it every day in practice.”

Turnover issue 'needs to be addressed'

Lost in Iowa’s 4-0 start is that the team has had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio in each game. Last year, the Hawkeyes had 602 assists to 441 turnovers while finishing 14-19.

That statistic is not misleading, McCaffery said.

“Needs to be addressed. Needs to be improved,” he said. “We played three teams, at least, that really scrambled at full-court and really got up into us. Oregon was the one that didn't as much, but they also pressed (in a) 1-2-2 (zone), and they scrambled a little bit at the end, so we're seeing a lot of pressure. But we've got to have it the other way. We've got to be a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, ultimately.”

Hawkeyes are ranked, not satisfied

Iowa entered the coaches’ poll at No. 22 and in 20th in the writers’ poll on Monday. These were the team’s first national ranking in three seasons.

“I’m happy for the guys. But we’ve played four games,” McCaffery said. “You have got to temper it a little bit and continue to strive to get better.”

McCaffery is no longer a voter in the coaches' poll, but he said he would have included the Hawkeyes in his rankings if he were.

Iowa’s next game is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday against Alabama State (2-2) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The Hawkeyes are going to approach that game, and all others, not worried about the rankings, according to Dailey.

He said junior point guard Jordan Bohannon even sent the players a text message Sunday evening reminding them that they’re 0-0 on the season (Big Ten Conference play hasn’t even begun). That’s going to be the mindset every night, Dailey said.

Bohannon humbled by Musial honor

Bohannon was in St. Louis over the weekend as one of the nine recipients of the Musial Award for sportsmanship. Stan Musial was a Hall of Fame baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals. Other honorees included Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the spiritual guiding force behind Loyola of Chicago’s Final Four run last spring, and Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith.

“That will probably go down as one of the coolest things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. I didn’t realize the magnitude of it until I got there. It was filled to the brim, 3,000 people there," Bohannon said. "I was pretty nervous to go out there and speak."

Bohannon won because of a missed free throw in February. He had made 34 straight to tie the school record of the late Chris Street. He missed the 35th purposely so that Street’s name wouldn’t be erased from the record book.

Mike and Patty Street, Chris’s parents, were also in St. Louis. Their son was killed in a car accident in during the 1992-93 season.

“I never really did it for myself. I just wanted to do what was right,” Bohannon said.

“I’m no hero, to that extent, but I’m happy that God gave me an opportunity to use my platform to extend someone’s story that meant so much to this university.”