Fran McCaffery is open to second-half lineup changes

Chad Leistikow

There are only so many in-game coaching buttons Fran McCaffery can push when it comes to managing Iowa's basketball fate.

There's no magic trigger to increase shooting percentages or cool off opposing teams. But one thing he can do is juggle lineups, and he's open to making changes when it comes to the five guys he puts out there to start the second half.

McCaffery has stood behind the starting lineup — Mike Gesell, Peter Jok, Jarrod Uthoff, Aaron White and Adam Woodbury.

But the reason he'd consider a second-half shakeup is Iowa has fallen flat at times after halftime. Iowa has lost by double digits three times after holding halftime leads — of six against Texas (which became a 14-point loss), of six against Northern Iowa (a 12-point loss) and most recently of 11 against Michigan State (a 14-point loss).

In the Iowa State loss, a five-point halftime deficit swelled to 25.

"It's funny, in a lot of those games we played really well in the first half. So you're saying, well, why would you change the lineup in the second half?" McCaffery said Monday. "But when you keep coming out and giving up leads that you've worked so hard to get, yeah, that's something you would think about."

Though 6-foot-10 Gabe Olaseni prefers coming off the bench to relieve Woodbury, there's no denying he's provided extra firepower at the center position. He scored 13 points in a span of just over six minutes that helped a team-wide Iowa surge in the first half against Michigan State.

"That first half was all about energy. Getting stops. Getting transition buckets. Moving the ball side-to-side on offense," Iowa's Aaron White said. "It was all about the energy."

The second half lacked that Hawkeye fire that will need to be burning at "The Barn" Tuesday when Iowa (11-5 overall, 2-1 Big Ten Conference) travels to Williams Arena — against a Minnesota team that will no doubt be salivating for a taste of success.

The Golden Gophers (11-6 overall) have a misleading 0-4 Big Ten record. They were a standard NCAA Tournament pick after winning last year's NIT championship. Their best chance to get back on track, with five of their next seven games at home, starts with Tuesday's 8 p.m. CT showdown (Big Ten Network).

"We need to get some confidence back, certainly," Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. "We have lost four games, and legitimately three of them were decided by two possessions."

Iowa's national Ken Pomeroy rating is 45th. Minnesota's is 46th, with road losses against Purdue, Maryland and Michigan, and a two-point home loss in overtime to Ohio State on the ledger.

"We know exactly what we're walking into Tuesday night," McCaffery said.

What's dangerous for the Hawkeyes is that they're facing a similar situation as a year ago — a Tuesday trip to Minneapolis after a crushing home loss against a Big Ten heavyweight.

Iowa was never the same team after losing at home to Wisconsin last Feb. 22, then blowing an 11-point lead three days later in Williams Arena. A struggling Minnesota club suddenly caught fire against Iowa, scoring 30 points in the final 7:32 of the first half in what would become a 95-89 win.

If there's good news for Iowa, it's that this team is 2-0 in true road games — at North Carolina, at Ohio State.

"Very good team," Pitino said. "If we can get a win, we know it'll be a quality win at the end of the year."


Iowa (11-5, 2-1 Big Ten) at Minnesota (10-6, 0-4 Big Ten)

Specifics — 8 p.m., Williams Arena in Minneapolis.

Following the game — TV: Big Ten Network. Radio: WHO-AM (1040), WMT-AM (600) and the Hawkeye network. Live scoring:

Preview — The magic number for Iowa? Eight. The Hawkeyes are 5-0 this season when making eight or more 3-pointers. They last did it Dec. 30 at Ohio State. ... Aaron White is coming off a season-low eight points against Michigan State. He lamented his performance afterward. "I think you'll see a little different energy level out of me next game," said White, who leads Iowa at 15.9 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. ... White (1,556 points) needs six points to pass Dean Oliver for No. 10 all-time at Iowa.