Amid shooting slump, Iowa men's basketball prioritizes staying the course as best remedy

Kennington Lloyd Smith III
Des Moines Register

There's a common denominator in Iowa men's basketball's back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Wisconsin, and senior Connor McCaffery said on Friday that it's not hard to identify.

"Didn't shoot the ball well the last few games," Connor McCaffery said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out but I think our morale is good and we're excited for the home stretch."

The Hawkeyes (17-11 overall, 9-8 in Big Ten play) have shot a combined 6-for-52 from the 3-point line in their last two games, both losses on the road. In 13 road and neutral-site games this season, Iowa is shooting just 27.8% from 3 (71-for-255). By comparison, it is hitting on 36.7% from 3-point range at home.

Iowa returns home for its next game, against Michigan State (17-10, 9-7) on Saturday at 11 a.m. on ESPN. Is the comfort of playing at home, and a sellout crowd enough alone to lift the recent shooting woes? Coach Fran McCaffery doesn't buy much stock into that.

"I don't really think much of (the difference in playing at home), the kids are playing hard," Fran McCaffery said. "We haven't shot it well a number of times but we have shot it well at times, just got to make some threes. Kids are playing hard. They're playing defense. They're moving it, sharing it. It's not like we're taking bad shots."

Iowa guard Connor McCaffery (30) shoots a 3-point basket during a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Fran McCaffery noted that despite recent losses, the Hawkeyes have been in striking distance of winning. They were down by seven points to Northwestern in the second half and the Wisconsin game was closely contested until the Badgers pulled away in the final minutes. That's not possible unless Iowa's doing other things to stay close such as better defense in stretches, fewer turnovers and improved rebounding.

"Our rebounding has been pretty good, defense has been better at times," forward Filip Rebraca said. "Shooting will come, we just need to continue doing these little things."

As far as why there's such a discrepancy between home and road shooting, it's hard for the Hawkeyes to quantify. Difference in venue, potentially a different ball than Iowa uses could be factors but probably not enough to skew the numbers this drastically. But Connor McCaffery said that the team understands they have capable shooters, and the hope is that beginning on Saturday at home, these recent woes start to fade.

"I don't think it's necessarily a serious trend or a big worry," Connor McCaffery said. "Every team has comfortability (at home) but I don't think it's some drastic thing, I think hopefully it's just an anomaly. And it'd be different if we were horrible shooters and we're not, so there's a big difference there.

Fran McCaffery provides an update on his freshmen Dasonte Bowen, Josh Dix

Fran McCaffery took some time on Friday to provide an update on true freshman guards Dasonte Bowen and Josh Dix. McCaffery has opted for experience in recent playing rotations, leaving only a few spot minutes for either player. Dix is the eighth man in the rotation but has only played 10-plus minutes just once in the last seven games. Bowen's only played seven minutes this month.

But Fran McCaffery is pleased where both are at and expects them to be contributors next season if not this year.

"They're fine," McCaffery said. "I say this all the time, they both need a little bit more playing time. They both deserve it. They're both good players. We've kind of gone with our veteran guys. Josh has been playing a little more than Dasonte, but I've got to get them both in there a little bit more, and their time is coming. Both guys are solid."