Men’s basketball offense is in trouble


(The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez

During the men’s basketball game against Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, the Iowa Hawkeyes fell to the Wisconsin Badgers 67-59. (The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez)

The team is struggling to take care of the ball and also getting it in the hoop.
By Kyle Mann

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The stumbling Iowa basketball team hasn’t looked like itself in weeks, and after losing its third-straight game, at Ohio State on Sunday, fans are wondering if this is more than a bump in the road. Iowa once appeared to be the favorite for the Big Ten title, but it is now fighting for a double bye in the conference tournament.

Turnovers against Ohio State — 15

This number marks three-consecutive games with at least 13.

Iowa has taken care of the ball remarkably well to this point in the season and actually still sits atop the conference with a plus-2.9 turnover margin. However, the Hawkeyes’ current trajectory will see that ranking slip in the near future.

Senior point guards Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons are as heady of a duo as there is in the Big Ten, and for the better half of the season, they orchestrated one of the best offenses in not just the conference but the country as well. Iowa’s ball movement and floor spacing had the Hawkeyes scoring more than 80 points per game, but the recent stagnation has seen the Hawkeyes fail to hit that mark in its last seven games.

Turnovers happen, and while Iowa has struggled recently, it has still been within striking distance in every loss. Take away the turnovers, maybe the Hawks win. But even with that, there’s another looming issue.

3-point percentage in Iowa’s last five games — 34.3 percent

The Hawkeyes, at one time, enjoyed Peter Jok, Jarrod Uthoff, and Dom Uhl each shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc, and the team shot above 40 percent collectively until only recently.

Iowa is shooting 34.4% from distance in the last five games, a massive departure from the sharpshooting it displayed early in the season. For a team so reliant on spacing and making shots, it’s understandable that a dip in shooting has resulted in a dip in overall success.

Iowa has shot 40 percent from 3 in games that it has won and just 34 percent in its eight losses. Come the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, the Hawkeyes will live and die by the 3.

Most specifically, just as much as the Hawkeyes rely on the 3, they rely on Uthoff to dictate defenses and allow proper spacing. In this regard, Uthoff’s 23 percent mark in the past five games is perhaps the single most important figure to keep an eye on.

Assists against Ohio State — 11

Iowa accumulated only 11 team assists in Sunday’s loss, which is consistent with the number over the last five games and really the second half of the season.

Maybe a little bit of it goes back to the increase in turnovers, but another startling trend reflecting the grinding offense is the decrease in team assists.

Before the loss to Maryland on Jan. 28, Iowa sat between 15 and 20 assists per game. Since then, the mark has moved to between 10 and 14 and only eclipsed 15 one time.

Of course, with shots not going in, they can’t rack up assists. So is the passing not leading to good opportunities, or are the good opportunities not being taken advantage of? The answer is that it’s a little bit of both, and whatever the solution is, Iowa needs it quick.

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