The insertion of Isaiah Moss into Iowa’s starting lineup is paying dividends on both ends of the court.
Moss, a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman, was a surprise starter Nov. 29 at Notre Dame and gave the Hawkeyes a lift with his active defense and deft passing. He’s stayed in that three-guard configuration since, scoring 45 points with 13 rebounds and eight assists over a four-game span, the last two of them home victories.
On Monday, Moss was recognized as the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week, drawing acclaim alongside senior guard Peter Jok, who was named the league’s Player of the Week.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Moss is providing what he was seeking when he started expanding his role two weeks ago. McCaffery said it’s not simply a matter of Moss getting more minutes after injuries to forwards Dale Jones and Tyler Cook.
“When we made the switch for the Notre Dame game, went with the small lineup — that’s kind of what we had in mind,” McCaffery said on Monday’s Big Ten Conference teleconference. “When I look at Dale — even though he’s got a lot of 3-man skills — he’s 6-8, 235, so that would be a bigger lineup. Isaiah’s still 6-6 and long, so it’s not like we’re real small. But it’s kind of a three-guard alignment versus a three-forward alignment.”
That alignment produced Iowa’s best defensive showing in Thursday’s 78-64 victory over Iowa State. The Hawkeyes limited the Cyclones to 8-of-30 shooting from the 3-point arc but also surrendered only 24 points in the paint.
“It was not perfection, but it was by far the most consistent that it’s been, in terms of keeping penetrators out of the lane and rotating to shooters and contesting shots and making them make tough 2s and contested 3s,” McCaffery said.
“It’s great to put it together once. Can you do it every time, every game, which is hard? But hopefully, now that they’ve seen it work and they know they can do it, clearly, I think that is a boost in their confidence.”
Iowa (5-5) doesn’t play again until Saturday, when it will face Northern Iowa (5-4) at 3:30 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. That is the opening game of the Hy-Vee Classic, and about 500 tickets are still for sale.
It also may be the Hawkeyes’ last game without Cook, who had surgery on the broken index finger on his right (shooting) hand two weeks ago. McCaffery said the timeline was for Cook to return for the Dec. 20 home game against North Dakota.
“Assuming there’s no setbacks, I guess that’s what we’re looking at. But he hasn’t done anything live. He’s working out, running and riding the bike and staying in shape that way, but he’s not done anything else,” McCaffery said. “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be (a Dec. 20 return)."
Cook, a freshman, averaged 13.7 points and 5.3 rebounds while starting Iowa’s first six games.