Iowa men's basketball team explains why Georgia Tech game is so important

Kennington Lloyd Smith III
Des Moines Register

Iowa men's basketball was back to business on Monday following a tough, 79-66 loss to TCU in the championship of the Emerald Coast Classic.

The film review of Saturday's game in Florida revealed uncharacteristic errors by the Hawkeyes, highlighted by a season-high 15 turnovers. But the message from coach Fran McCaffery that's been echoed by the veterans on the team is that it was one game and one game only.

"We did some good things in that game," McCaffery said. "It got away from us there in the second half, and I thought our decision-making in terms of shot selection and so forth wasn't what it needed to be. Probably needed some longer possessions.

"But we had some guys that I thought played well. Some guys didn't play well. It's one game, and we're on to the next."

Iowa forward Kris Murray (24) blocks the shot of Omaha forward Frankie Fidler, second from right, as Iowa forward Patrick McCaffery defends during a Nov. 21 game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes beat Clemson on Friday night and finished 1-1 in the tournament. Those contests kicked off an important, early-season stretch against power conference opponents. Iowa will host Georgia Tech on Tuesday (8 p.m., ESPN2) before traveling to New York City to face Duke on Dec. 6. Then there are home games against Iowa State (Dec. 8) and Wisconsin (Dec. 11).

Georgia Tech is 4-2, its losses coming against Utah and Marquette. The Yellow Jackets beat Clayton State, Georgia State, Northern Illinois and North Alabama. Tech has three players scoring in double figures −Dallan Coleman (11.3), Miles Kelly (11.2) and Deivon Smith (10.8).

Iowa can't afford to brood over the disappointing TCU outcome.

"We don't have time for people feeling bad, then all of a sudden lose two, three in a row because guys aren't confident," senior forward Connor McCaffery said. "We lose to a good TCU team, so how do we bounce back from that and learn from our mistakes? Move on, play well against Georgia Tech, play well against Duke, and don't let bad mistakes compound into two, three losses in a row because that's what that's what bad teams do. And then ultimately, you're really in a bad spot."

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Iowa's two-game stint in Niceville, Florida, produced a mixed bag of results. There were good moments, such as the team's effort on the defensive side of the court. But there was a night-and-day difference in rebounding between the Clemson win (+14) and the TCU loss (-13) plus a pair of cold-shooting nights (19.4% from three-point range in two games).

Fran McCaffery sounded pleased with how the team handled the weekend overall. One of the biggest off-the-court takeaways was preparation. The Hawkeyes got their first taste of prepping for opponents in a short time, which is critical when the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments roll around in the spring. Now, the focus is bouncing back against Georgia Tech on Tuesday and entering the Jimmy V Classic next week with positive momentum.

"I think it was good for the young guys in particular," Fran McCaffery said. "I think everybody thinks, 'Wow, it's great, all these tournaments are in sort of destination locations and the weather is nice,' and it really doesn't matter where the games are for the players. It's good for the fans, the families that go. We're just pretty much locked into the hotel, going through walk-throughs, going to shootarounds, locking into film, reading the scouting report, processing it and then getting ready for the game."

More:Fran McCaffery after Hawkeyes outmuscled in blowout loss to TCU: 'We'll learn from it'

More takeaways from Monday's media availability:

Tony Perkins seems to be in good health entering Tuesday night

Iowa guard Tony Perkins (11) drives past Seton Hall guard Femi Odukale (21) during the first half of a Nov. 16 game in New Jersey.

One storyline entering last weekend's tournament was the health of starting point guard Tony Perkins (leg). He returned to the lineup after a one-game absence last week and recorded 27 points (8-of-21 shooting), four rebounds and five steals in Iowa's two games. Fran McCaffery noted that Perkins was still sore while playing but came out of the weekend in good shape.

Perkins added some clarity on Monday, saying he got hurt late in the Nov. 16 game against Seton Hall but the injury was not considered serious. He's devoted extra time to rehab and doesn't believe it will affect him long-term.

"I was pretty pleased with the fact that he could play back-to-back," Fran McCaffery said. "I was concerned about that, quite honestly, could he go back-to-back and still be effective? ... He came through it okay. I think he'll be fine for (Tuesday)."

More:No. 24 Iowa holds off late Clemson surge to advance in Emerald Coast Classic

Guards Ahron Ulis, Dasonte Bowen are gaining their stride

An encouraging sign out of last weekend's tournament was strong play by guards Dasonte Bowen and Ahron Ulis. Ulis has strung together several impressive games in a row, culminating in a career-high 15 points against TCU. What stood out most is that his jump shot looks much improved this season.

Ulis, a junior from Chicago, seems fully healed from a wrist injury that limited his playing time down the stretch last season. With a clean bill of health and more confidence in his offensive game, he appears primed for his prominent bench role and/or potentially cracking the starting lineup as the year progresses.

"I thought he was terrific down there," Fran McCaffery said. "Really fought defensively, made some adjustments from Friday to Saturday. He was looking for his shot. He was making threes, he was making pull-ups. He was getting to the rim ... I've said this, we saw that last year in him and then when he got hurt. He was doing that for the better part of last year, as well, so now you're seeing that continue. He's playing with great confidence. I'm very happy with him."

Bowen, a true freshman from Boston, made the most of his 12 minutes against Clemson, scoring nine points on 3-of-3 shooting, then logged a season-high 21 minutes vs. TCU. Connor McCaffery said Monday that Bowen's ability to pick up on the nuances of the college game is impressive. His aggressive play is what coach McCaffery and players like most about him. He's shown an ability to digest scouting reports and then execute them on the court.

"It's definitely different," Bowen said. "You get a much more bulky scouting report than you do in high school ... but I'm a student of the game, so I'm just taking it in, taking in personnel and plays and then just apply when you get on the floor."