IOWA CITY, Ia. — Fifth-ranked Iowa has been outscored 55-6 in bench points the last two basketball games.
Are the Hawkeye youngsters hitting a wall? Coach Fran McCaffery received that question during a Friday interview and responded by saying, “I think they’ll be fine.”
The wall is a real thing for younger players, though, senior point guard Mike Gesell acknowledged after Sunday’s 75-71 win over Minnesota.
“I think everybody hits some sort of wall throughout the season,” Gesell said. “It’s hard not to do that, it’s such a long season. It’s the way you respond to it.”
There was a span of 79 minutes, 59 seconds from the second half of the Illinois win to Sunday’s second half — basically two full games — in which Iowa’s four bench players scored a combined two points.
McCaffery has for weeks credited the bench as a catalyst for helping Iowa become a well-rounded team that on Monday will be ranked in the nation’s top 10 for the fifth consecutive week.
Iowa certainly will need more from sophomore Dom Uhl and freshmen Nicholas Baer, Ahmad Wagner and Brady Ellingson down the stretch. That quartet went scoreless in Thursday’s 85-78 loss at No. 22 Indiana and combined for six points Sunday.
“I know those guys are working hard every single day in practice,” said Gesell, who said he’s gotten better over the years at listening to, and taking care of, his body. “They’re not doing anything different. They’ve just got to continue to play their games, and their points are going to come.”
That’s the message from McCaffery, too. Uhl was aggressive offensively in picking up four points in 10 minutes, Wagner grabbed seven rebounds in 16 minutes and Baer had three offensive boards in nine minutes.
“They weren't mistake guys,” McCaffery said. “That's what you need, rebound, energy, defend, don't make mistakes, and the points will come.”