Brown: How the Iowa men found their shooting touch

Rick Brown

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Jeff Moe buried a 3-pointer from the left corner, dropped to a knee and pumped his fist. The crowd at Minnesota's Williams Arena booed.

That's about all they could do that February afternoon in 1988. Moe swished his first six 3-point attempts, and Iowa made 30-of-36 shots from the field in one stretch. The Hawkeyes shot 62.5 percent from the floor and won 107-86, the only time they've cracked the century mark in a building that opened in 1928.

Four days later, Iowa shot 62.7 percent from the field in a 91-74 victory at Northwestern. No Hawkeye team had matched that 60 percent accuracy in back-to-back Big Ten games until last week. That's when Iowa's season took an uptick when it shot 62.7 percent from the field in a 72-54 victory at Michigan on Feb. 5, then shot 64.3 percent in Sunday's 71-55 triumph over No. 17 Maryland.

"It's nothing scientific," said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, whose team faces Minnesota at 6 p.m. Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "But it's getting five guys to understand that and execute that on the floor. That's what they're doing."

In the midst of a three-game losing streak, which started with a 32-point loss at Wisconsin when the Hawkeyes were a textbook case of inefficiency, assistant coach Kirk Speraw crunched some numbers in an attempt to improve the offense. He broke down all of Iowa's Big Ten games to that point of the season.

Possessions where Iowa scored in transition, or ran set plays, weren't included. Only those in the motion offense were charted. Iowa was scoring on just 29 percent of the possessions in which it made zero to two passes. But they scored on approximately 65 percent of the possessions in which three or more passes were made. And when the ball moved from wing to wing, the success rate grew to the mid-70s.

"The numbers surprised me," point guard Mike Gesell said.

So moving the ball in a more efficient matter from wing to wing, and running the offense through the post, became an area of emphasis.

"It's been working out for us," center Adam Woodbury said. "I don't think we'll go away from it anytime soon."

The Hawkeyes are now second in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at .477, up from .439 a week ago.

"You've started to see the ball move side-to-side," forward Aaron White said. "That's a credit to our coaches for realizing that. And a credit to our players to be disciplined enough and unselfish enough to execute what the coaches want from us."

Iowa's improved ball movement has led to better offensive balance. All five starters scored in double figures at Michigan, the first time a Hawkeye team has done that in a Big Ten game since 2004. And over the last three games, all five starters are averaging in double figures.

There's similar depth in the race to see who is the Big Ten's best team behind Wisconsin. And continued balance on the offensive end sure won't hurt Iowa's chances.