O defense, where art thou?

Defensively, Iowa could not find a rhythm against Indiana — the Hoosiers exploited the Hawkeye zone defense and made their game-deciding run against Fran McCaffery’s man-to-man scheme.


David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan

Indiana Guard Robert Johnson launches a jump shot against the University of Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. The Hoosiers defeated the Hawkeyes 84 to 82. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Adam Hensley, [email protected]

Iowa made its first 10 shots against Indiana. The Hawkeyes made their shots at a 70 percent rate in the first half, 55 percent for the entire game. Iowa out-rebounded Indiana, 33-19.

Yet, the Hawkeyes lost.

Iowa’s defense, shaky at best this season, broke down after it jumped out to an early lead. The Hawkeyes ran out to a 13-point lead in the first half, but the Hoosiers chipped away, eventually creating a 13-point lead for themselves in the second half.

“If there’s any disappointment, it was the run they made in the second half,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “We just weren’t as active. Our closeouts were not effective. It’s pretty obvious who was hitting shots — two guys.”

But the 3-point defense was nonexistent on Feb. 17; Indiana’s Robert Johnson and Devonte Green had the green light from downtown and cruised.

Johnson drained nine of his 12 attempts from deep (as a team, Iowa made nine 3-pointers).

“Robert Johnson is one of the better players in our league,” Tyler Cook said. “When guys get hot, when smart players get hot, they figure out ways to get their good looks. It’s our job to combat that stuff. Obviously, we’re playing different teams every day — we got to do different things to try to slow guys down. I think it just took us too long to adjust to that.”

Between Johnson and Green, the two made 13 of Indiana’s 14 treys.

Closing out on 3-point shooters has been an issue for Iowa this season; entering the matchup with the Hoosiers, the Hawkeye defense had allowed opponents to make 41.6 percent of their 3-pointers in conference play.

Indiana made 58.3 percent of its shots from deep, a better percentage than its overall shooting for the game.

McCaffery opted to go with a zone defense for a good portion of the game but switched to a man-to-man defense early in the second half, where Indiana feasted on a 20-7 scoring run.

“The problem you have today is that we’re in a zone,” McCaffery said. “You’re going to give up some 3s. Like I said, I’m disappointed we didn’t react to the two guys who were making them. But you’re going to be susceptible in giving up 3s, and we’ve committed to the zone in the last two games — clearly it hasn’t worked … it has to do with closeouts.”

McCaffery noted that Indiana sliced open Iowa’s defense with its ability to cut to the basket as well; the Hawkeyes often found themselves overly concerned with the 3-ball (rightfully so), and the Hoosiers exploited that by driving past closeouts.

Iowa’s defensive core of Ahmad Wagner, Nicholas Baer, and Ryan Kriener worked in man-to-man later in the game, however, as the Hawkeyes clawed their way back into the game.

It wasn’t enough, though.

“I think we didn’t bring the toughest that we had in the last 10 minutes,” Luka Garza said. “We gave up a couple wing 3s in the zone, and they cut that lead down fast … we should have never let them back in it.”

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