Defensive lapses haunt Hawkeyes against Wolverines

Iowa couldn’t contain Michigan from 3-point range in the first half, resulting in a hole too deep for the Hawkeyes to scale on Jan. 2.


The Daily Iowan; Photo by Ben Al

Michigan guard Charles Matthews (1) dunks the ball in front of Iowa's Nicholas Baer (51) during the NCAA basketball game between Iowa and Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2017. The Hawkeyes fell to the Wolverines 75-68. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa’s defense imploded on Jan. 2 against Michigan in Carver-Hawkeye.

The Hawkeyes offense wasn’t clicking by any means, but the Black and Gold could not stop the Wolverines’ offensive attack in the first half of their 75-68 loss. Iowa is now 0-3 in Big Ten play.

“I think it was just a game where we see them hitting shots, and our shots [aren’t] falling early, so we kind of just gave up,” forward Cordell Pemsl said.

Iowa held a 10-7 advantage at the 14:07 mark, but Michigan went on a 22-4 run to take a 15-point lead with eight minute left in the half. Then, at the 5:03 mark, the Wolverines went on another, smaller run, 7-0, to go up 42-27 after Iowa had cut the lead to 8. Michigan led at the half, 48-36, after the Hawkeyes scored 6 points in a row.

Michigan head coach John Beilein said that especially against a team such as Iowa, which employs a press and switches defenses throughout the game, it’s important to move the ball and find the second, third, fourth, and fifth options on offense.

And that’s where Iowa’s defense collapsed.

False help, a term used by some of the Hawkeyes, proved to be a key in the defensive breakdown against the Wolverines.

“We’re helping when it’s not necessary,” Pemsl said. “We’ve got guys driving — would it make more sense to give up the contested 2 rather than help and leave a wide open 3? That’s basically how they were getting all their 3s. They were just drive and kicks. They’ve got great shooters … I think we were just helping too much.”

On one play in particular, Michigan’s Charles Matthews had the ball at the top of the key, and when looking for a screen, Iowa’s Luka Garza came up in help defense. Matthews went the opposite way, and Garza and Maishe Dailey almost ran into each other, leading to a wide-open lane and an easy two-handed slam.

Matthews used the screen to perfection, and it opened a glaring wound in Iowa’s defense.

As much as the Hawkeyes have struggled this season (on both ends of the floor), statistically, Iowa’s defense has improved since last season.

During Iowa’s 2016-17 campaign, the Hawkeyes gave up an average of 78.1 points per game. Opponents knocked down shots at a 44.5 percent clip, made 35.8 percent of their 3-pointers, and averaged 8.5 makes from deep.

This season, Iowa has gotten better in each of those categories.

The Hawkeyes came into the Jan. 2 contest allowing 72.8 points per game, holding opponents to 41.9 percent shooting from the floor, 32.7 percent from 3-point range, and only giving up 7.4 triples per game.

Against Michigan, the Hawkeyes defense failed to play a complete game, and that’s what ultimately sunk their ship in their third Big Ten game of the season.

The Wolverines drained 8 3-pointers in the first half, more than the Hawkeyes give up in an entire game. Michigan’s 3-point count grew to 11 by the final whistle.

“We felt like we were able to handle their ball-screen offense,” Jordan Bohannon said. “But they just really picked us apart and got it open to a lot of 3-point shooters — 8-for-11 in the first half, it’s hard to beat teams.”

In the second half, the Hawkeyes picked up defensively, but it was a matter of too little, too late.

Iowa held Michigan in check offensively. The Wolverines mustered a 35.7 shooting percentage in the second half, and they only made 3 of their 10 attempts from 3-point land.

The Hawkeyes had chances to regain the lead — something they failed to have since that 14-minute mark in the first frame — but defensive breakdowns plagued Iowa.

Putting it plain and simple, the Hawkeyes “weren’t connected,” said head coach Fran McCaffery.

“We were kind of always in scramble mode,” he said. “They took advantage of it.”

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