Iowa men's basketball could have Patrick McCaffery back for Thursday's Michigan State game

Kennington Lloyd Smith III
Des Moines Register

Iowa men's basketball center Filip Rebraca said there were two key elements missing in the Hawkeyes' 93-77 road loss at Ohio State on Saturday: effort and attention to detail.

Iowa was within striking distance at halftime but a lack of execution down the stretch prevented a fifth straight win and set the stage for a critical set of upcoming games.

The Hawkeyes will travel to Michigan State on Thursday night (6 p.m. CT on Fox Sports 1) and will play a Spartans team that's also in search of a win, having lost three of their last four games. Iowa could see the return of Patrick McCaffery in East Lansing (more on that later).

Coach Fran McCaffery's team Saturday lacked the "business-like" approach needed to win on the road in the Big Ten. How has Iowa responded? McCaffery addressed that during his Wednesday Zoom meeting with reporters.

"They've been really professional as I would have expected them to be," McCaffery said. "We were not as connected at either end of the floor, that was obvious. We're not a team that turns the ball over 14 times. We're not a team that gets outrebounded like that, in particular in 20 minutes (outrebounded 21-10 in second half).

"We played OK for a while. We made a couple runs, kept cutting (the deficit to eight points) and couldn't get it under eight. You got to learn from it, this is a mature group and I think that their approach has been really good."

Iowa men's basketball is seeking a bounce-back road win on Thursday night at Michigan State, a team that's equally desperate for a win.

What particularly hurt Iowa last Saturday was a poor defensive effort resulting in 56 second-half points allowed. Poor rotations and communication allowed for the Buckeyes to shoot 50% from 3-point range in the contest. Tightening up on the perimeter will be a point of emphasis on Thursday as Michigan State is the fourth-best team in the conference in 3-point shooting (37%). And perhaps more important than playing better defense, Iowa must finish defensive possessions with defensive rebounds.

McCaffery pointed to another issue that needs to improve: offensive execution. On paper the Hawkeyes shot a good percentage (45% from the field, 46% from three) but the excessive turnovers and a few stretches of poor shot selections gave Ohio State opportunities to score on the other end. Iowa will need to play more under control and own the tempo against Michigan State point guard AJ Hoggard, who McCaffery noted is playing at an elite level right now.

"I thought a lot of the problems we had was was our offensive execution," McCaffery said. "(Ohio State) got some transition opportunities and they got to play from ahead. They were comfortable running their stuff. They were running their stuff at their pace and they would go back and get their misses. They were in a really good rhythm and we didn't do anything to disrupt that at all."

Patrick McCaffery is a game-time decision on Thursday night

Iowa forward Patrick McCaffery (22) shoots against Eastern Illinois on Dec. 21, 2022, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

The Iowa coach also provided another update on starting forward Patrick McCaffery, who has not played in a game since Jan. 1 as he deals with anxiety issues. Fran McCaffery confirmed that Patrick's return this season isn't a matter of if but when. And it could come as early as Thursday night in East Lansing.

"That'll be determined game time," McCaffery said. "He's still practicing, doing better."

The junior returned to practice last week to begin the process of rejoining the team. As of Wednesday, McCaffery is a full-go in practice and will return whenever he feels ready.

"He's doing everything that everybody else is doing right now," McCaffery said. "So he's running, lifting, shooting and practicing. I think his conditioning should be OK whenever he decides to play."