Hoops takeaways: Iowa 'absolutely fine' after players-only meeting
IOWA CITY, Ia. — There was a players-only Iowa basketball meeting Saturday, led by the team’s seniors. What happened in that meeting, that’s being kept close to the vest.
“What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room,” said Jarrod Uthoff, one of the Hawkeyes’ four senior starters.
To those looking from the outside, a players-only meeting sometimes can signal distress.
That’s probably why senior Adam Woodbury, once he was aware media members knew about the meeting, said Saturday’s get-together was just “a talent show” of singing and dancing and that redshirt freshman Nicholas Baer — the first of four players to acknowledge that the meeting occurred in interviews Monday — was the winner.
“He just got into trouble by me,” Woodbury said jokingly. “We’ll have a little talking-to when we get done here.”
Woodbury stressed that there was no panic in the team following Wednesday’s 79-75 loss at Penn State. Instead, players seemed happy to enjoy a week between games before a tough finishing stretch of four in 11 days against Wisconsin, Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan.
“It was very nice to get a step back and kind of relax your body,” Uthoff said. “… Kind of recharge.”
Saturday's meeting was calm, sophomore Dom Uhl said.
“We just talked about the Penn State game,” Uhl said, “and what we have to do to keep the season going.”
Baer gave a generic answer, too, noting: “We’ve got to follow our leaders and make sure everybody’s on board and knowing what we have to do to be successful going forward in the Big Ten season.”
The Hawkeyes (20-6 overall, 11-3 Big Ten Conference) were ranked No. 8 in the polls Monday, their fifth consecutive week in the nation’s top 10. They are in a wonderful position — if they win their final four games, they’ll win the school’s first outright Big Ten regular-season championship since 1970. If they go 3-1, as long as one of those wins is March 1 against Indiana, they're guaranteed to at least share a Big Ten crown.
“I don’t really want to get into our team meeting,” Uthoff said. “We’re fine. We’re absolutely fine. We’re looking forward to Wednesday. We can’t wait. We’re itching to get out there and compete.”
It worked last time
A year ago, then-senior Aaron White called a team meeting after an overtime loss at Northwestern that sunk Iowa’s record to 6-6 in Big Ten play.
The Hawkeyes responded by winning their final six regular-season games to finish tied for third in the conference, their highest finish since 2005-06.
Two years ago, Iowa went the other way after a tough home loss to Wisconsin — dropping seven of its final eight games after a 19-6 start.
“Every year’s different, different personnel, everything like that,” Woodbury said. “We’re hoping not to finish (like) my sophomore year, to finish more like our junior year — continue to get stronger as the season progresses and make our way to March.”
The book on Iowa
Have teams perfected the scouting report against Iowa?
Uthoff, for example, said opponents have been defending him more aggressively. He’s shooting 25 percent from 3-point range in the last seven games (9-for-36) after hitting 51.5 percent from deep (17-for-33) during Iowa's 7-0 Big Ten start.
“They’re trying to be more physical with me, trying to get in my space,” said Uthoff, who is by no means struggling. He’s the Big Ten’s No. 2 scorer at 18.8 points per game. “… (In) transition, there’s always a guy that spots me. I don’t really get many open looks.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said he “occasionally” installs new offensive looks/set plays late in a season. This is one of those years.
“I don't do a lot of that. Some coaches do more than others,” McCaffery said. “But we have done that. We've done that this year. We've done it in the past. I think that's fairly typical, especially as you get later in the conference season when everybody is watching you over and over on film.”
More shots for Woody?
Woodbury has attempted just two shots in Iowa’s last two games, in which Uthoff and Peter Jok have accounted for 65.3 percent of the team’s points and the need for a No. 3 scorer has become more apparent.
“I don’t think I passed up many shots, honestly,” said Woodbury, who had four double-doubles in six games before going 0-for-0 vs. Minnesota and 1-for-2 at Penn State. “I didn’t get that many looks underneath the hoop.
“When we win, my shots don’t matter. When we lose, everybody wants to say I need to shoot more. … It’s just part of the deal. I don’t think I passed up too many. I wasn’t trying to force anything."
McCaffery attended emotional funeral
McCaffery and Iowa basketball director of operations Billy Taylor attended the Thursday funeral of Ingrid Williams in Oklahoma City, in which Monty Williams, an assistant coach for the NBA's Thunder, delivered an emotional eulogy that urged people to pray for the family of the driver responsible for killing Williams’ wife in a Feb. 9 car crash.
McCaffery coached Taylor and Williams as an assistant at Notre Dame in the 1990s. The funeral, McCaffery said, “puts a lot of perspective onto our profession in many ways.” Williams has five children, ages 5 to 17.
McCaffery first learned of Ingrid’s death after getting off a plane in Indiana as Iowa prepared to play the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall.
“I felt like somebody punched me in the stomach, because I know the kind of person she is,” McCaffery said. “I know the kind of relationship they had, and I know his children.”
Standing room only
Those were the only tickets available as of Monday afternoon for Iowa's final two home games, both 8 p.m. tipoffs: Wednesday against Wisconsin, March 1 against Indiana for senior day. With so many student no-shows this season, there will likely be a seat for anyone buying any remaining SRO tickets.