Men’s hoops riding high in streak

Iowa+center+Adam+Woodbury+dunks+during+the+Iowa-Michigan+game+in+Carver-Hawkeye+on+Sunday.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Wolverines%2C+82-71.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FMargaret+Kispert%29

Iowa center Adam Woodbury dunks during the Iowa-Michigan game in Carver-Hawkeye on Sunday. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wolverines, 82-71. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

Ian Murphy, [email protected]

After another dismantling of a state university basketball team from Michigan Sunday, the Iowa men’s basketball team is 5-0 in the Big Ten and sits No. 9 in the AP poll — the highest Iowa has been ranked since 2001.

But to hear the players and the head coach tell it, they aren’t surprised they’ve had this level of success.

“I didn’t not see it coming,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “I thought we had a really good team. I felt like we had potential.”

The potential McCaffery saw has certainly manifested itself on the court.

The Hawkeyes are on a seven-game winning streak following their second-half collapse against Iowa State on Dec. 10, 2015, including two wins over traditional conference power Michigan State and a road comeback over a ranked Purdue team.

“I think you can look at the Iowa State game in two ways,” McCaffery said. “Playing the second-ranked team in the country on the road in a hostile environment, and we scored 82 and lost by 1. Or you can say, OK, we had a lead, and we couldn’t get the ball in-bounds twice and we blew the game.”

McCaffery credited the former as a major reason for the success and preached the positives of the game to his team.

The team has bought into the philosophy, as evidenced by its record and scores recently. The average margin of victory on the seven-game winning streak is almost 11 points.

“I’ve tried to continue to play my role on the team. I could obviously score more,” said senior Adam Woodbury, whose breakaway dunk in the 82-71 victory over Michigan, sent the Carver-Hawkeye crowd into a frenzy against.

“I’m all about winning; I really want to win,” he said. “The things we’ve been doing for the last couple weeks really show what our team can be.”

Those things include winning on the boards, shooting lights-out from behind the arc, including a 10-of-22 effort from behind the arc on Sunday, and coming away with a majority of the loose balls.

Over the course of the streak, the Hawkeyes have done all of these and then some.

They were especially evident in the second half on Sunday.

Iowa’s first-half 3-point shooting matched Sunday’s weather: frigid. The Hawkeyes shot just 3-11 from behind the arc in the first half, and the Hawkeyes only led by 5 at the half.

In the second half, however, the Hawkeyes shot 7-of-11 from 3, including a stretch of four-straight possessions.

Part of the better shooting can be attributed to having fewer players who can drive the paint, which McCaffery said pushes the balance to better shooters.

There was a distinct advantage in the number of loose balls the Hawkeyes recovered, and while they didn’t win the rebounding battle, they brought down enough boards to secure the victory.

All three are big reasons the Hawkeyes are winning, and they have contributed to the Hawkeyes’ confidence.

Iowa’s confidence is growing, and as it grows, so, too, will that of the Hawkeye followers.

“It’s going to be a good year for Hawkeye fans,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said after the game.

 

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