McCaffery wants Uthoff to take green-light approach

Rick Brown

IOWA CITY, Ia. – When Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery looked at the box score following his team’s 84-61 victory over Wichita State on Sunday, one number jumped off the page.

Jarrod Uthoff had scored 22 points, even though he had just 15 field-goal attempts.

“I said, 'Why did you only take 15 shots?’” McCaffery asked his senior forward.

I should have taken more, Uthoff told his coach.

“Yeah, you should have,” McCaffery told him. “I’m telling you to take 20.”

If Uthoff takes 20 shots in Wednesday’s 8:20 p.m. game against Florida State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, it will be a first. The most shots he’s attempted in his 73-game Hawkeye career is 19, against Gonzaga in an NCAA third-round game last season. Only four times has he taken more than 15 shots.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win,” Uthoff said. “If that means taking more shots, I’ll be taking more shots.”

Uthoff is leading the team in scoring at 18.2 points a game. He’s scored at least 13 points in all six games this season, despite averaging just 13.2 field-goal attempts. He’s taken 79 shots in 171 minutes, and made 51.9 percent of his attempts.

“I don’t always think shot first,” Uthoff said. “I pass up a lot of open looks, either because I’m not comfortable shooting or I think we can get a better one. The wheels are always turning up there.”

Uthoff said his coach’s green-light edict is a confidence boost.

“I’d like to see him more aggressive,” McCaffery said. “He had 15 shots (Sunday), and had 22 (points). I’d like to see him take 22 shots and have 35.”

It’s going to take some points if Iowa (4-2) wants to win its third straight ACC/Big Ten Challenge game. Florida State (4-1) is averaging 91.4 points a game. Freshman guards Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley are both averaging better than 20 points a game. Another guard, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, led the Seminoles in scoring last season as a freshman and had three 30-point games.

“They attack, kind of that attack mentality,” McCaffery said. “It will be more up and down, similar to the Dayton game.”

Iowa met the Flyers in the opening round of last week’s Advocare Invitational in Orlando, Fla. The Hawkeyes had no answers for Dayton’s transition game in the first half of an 82-77 loss.

“Our transition defense was horrendous in the first half of that game,” McCaffery said. “We were bad and we got that figured out.”

The Hawkeyes, averaging 81.8 points a game, are 42-6 when scoring at least 80 over the last six seasons.

Iowa is also using the 3-point shot effectively. Iowa is averaging 23.3 3-point attempts, and 9.5 makes. Iowa’s 40.7 percent success rate is a big improvement from last season’s 33.3 percent. Iowa averaged 16.9 3-point attempts in 2014-15, and 5.6 makes.

Six players have attempted at least 10 3-pointers this season: Uthoff, Peter Jok, Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons, Brady Ellingson and Dale Jones. Expect the perimeter shot to be part of the attack all season.

“Look at our team, and that’s no secret,” McCaffery said.