Iowa basketball's Patrick McCaffery has stepped up on offense. Here's how he's done it:
Patrick McCaffery was almost certain that he had a game-tying shot in Iowa men's basketball's last game against Wisconsin.
Down 3 points with a second left in overtime, a red-hot McCaffery just missed a 3-pointer that would've sent the game to double overtime and the Hawkeyes fell to the Badgers 78-75. His 3-pointer with 15 seconds left in regulation sent the game to its first overtime.
"It felt so good coming off the hand," McCaffery said after the game. "It was right on. Everything felt good all game, even my misses."
His performance last Sunday was one of his best. The redshirt junior posted a career-high 24 points with 19 of them coming in the second half and overtime. It was his third straight game shooting at least 50% from the field and scoring double-digit points. Within Iowa's program, there's an expectation for McCaffery to be a consistent offensive weapon. And right now, production is especially needed.
Leading scorer Kris Murray is out for an indefinite amount of time with a foot injury. McCaffery, the team's second-leading scorer, has shown flashes that he's ready for a larger scoring role. He's hit double figures in eight of the team's first 10 games and crossed the 20-point mark three times, something he hadn't done once in his previous three years.
Murray will return at some point. When paired with a confident McCaffery, it could create a formidable duo as the Hawkeyes navigate Big Ten play.
"I just feel like I have more of an understanding of what I needed to do to be successful at this level," McCaffery said. "I really worked on my jump shot and I think I made some progress there. I worked on my body and tinkered with a bunch of stuff weight-wise. I decided to stay lighter so I felt faster, but I've really worked on getting stronger and so I'm not going to get moved off my spots (as easily)."
McCaffery credits much of his early success this season to what transpired last year. As a first-time starter, he described himself as a "blank canvas", learning how to perform at the Big Ten level with a large role. His 10.5 point, 3.6 rebound per game campaign was solid, but McCaffery had higher expectations. He said he took about two weeks off after last season but every single day after, he worked on something to improve.
One of them was something that's been a part of his game throughout his life, limiting what he calls "silly shots" or unorthodox shots that oftentimes come off of one foot.
"We try to get him to play off two feet a little bit more," said head coach, and Patrick's dad, Fran McCaffery. "He's done that. That's a fine line because sometimes you've just got to go and you've got to attack, and if you're always playing off two feet, you're not always attacking the basket. But he is making good decisions in terms of when to go, when not to go, go, if it shuts down, find somebody else, make a play for somebody else."
Patrick McCaffery admits he's playing under more control this season and it's showing statistically. He's made jumps in points per game (from 10.5 to 13.9), field goal percentage (42% to 45%), 3-point percentage (33% to 36%) and free throw percentage (71% to 81%).
"I can still take those shots if I have to, like a late shot clock situation and there's no other option or whatever," Patrick McCaffery said. "But I I've been trying to kind of eliminate those shots more and take more balanced, high percentage shots and I think it's been good for our team as a whole."
His step forward in experience and decision-making has led to more confident play. This is particularly true in the second half of games. In his last three contests, McCaffery has 36 points on 68% shooting in the second half.
"Maybe in the past if he shot it not as well in the first half, he'd be a little more tentative and conservative," Fran McCaffery said after the Wisconsin game. "I don't want him to be conservative, I want him to be aggressive.
"He missed a couple 3s (in the first half) and he came out firing the second half (19 points), was aggressive, driving the ball, moving without the ball and sprinting in transition."
Iowa men's basketball has a pair of home games before Big Ten play resumes: Saturday against Southeast Missouri and Wednesday against Eastern Illinois. Those two games will be critical for McCaffery to continue his momentum and build more confidence. Constant improvement from him is critical as Iowa seeks another top finish in conference play this year.
"This year I think we all expected more from him," Fran McCaffery said. "He expected more from himself. I think that's really the critical factor. We can all want it for him or think it's coming, but what are his expectations for himself: did he put the time in (during) the spring and summer to be in a position to have those numbers go up? And he did.
"Anytime you have one of your players do that, it makes you proud, and you talk to him about it at the end of the year, these are the things you need to work on, this is what you have to do; they go out and do it, and that's kind of how it's supposed to work."