Hawkeyes clamp Badgers in Madison

After a solid defensive showing Thursday night, the Hawkeyes cracked KenPom’s top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Feb+18%2C+2021%3B+Madison%2C+Wisconsin%2C+USA%3B+Wisconsin+Badgers+forward+Micah+Potter+%2811%29+fights+for+space+among+Iowa+Hawkeyes+defenders+during+the+second+half+at+the+Kohl+Center.+Mandatory+Credit%3A+Mary+Langenfeld-USA+TODAY+Sports

Mary Langenfeld

Feb 18, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Micah Potter (11) fights for space among Iowa Hawkeyes defenders during the second half at the Kohl Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor


Ranked as low as 121st in adjusted defensive efficiency this season per KenPom, Iowa men’s basketball’s defense has been a liability for head coach Fran McCaffery all season long.

Now, the Hawkeyes may be turning the tide on the defensive end of the floor.

After their 77-62 win over Wisconsin in Madison Thursday night, the Hawkeyes’ defense cracked KenPom’s top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency – clocking in at 93rd.

On the night, Iowa held Wisconsin to just 30 percent shooting from the floor and 38. 2 percent from downtown. Of the Badgers’ 70 total field goal attempts, 34 came from beyond the arc.

“Our man-to-man [defense] was good again,” McCaffery said postgame. “We mixed [defenses], of course, but I thought our man-to-man was really good. They shot 34 [3-pointers]. That’s a lot of threes. We were chasing them around. I thought our defense, start to finish, was pretty good.”

Iowa’s victory in Madison also signified another noteworthy milestone, as the Hawkeyes have now held their opponents to under 70 total points in four-straight games. 

Indiana, Michigan State, and Rutgers have all fallen victim to Iowa’s newfound defensive prowess. The Hawkeyes even managed a sub-60 defensive performance against the Spartans, as Michigan State scored just 58 total points Feb. 13.

“[We’re] just staying connected, communicating,” sophomore guard C.J. Fredrick said. “We know if we want to make a deep run here, we really have to guard. I think our man-to-man has been tremendous. When we went to zone we were good. But it’s just staying connected, communicating, switching when needed. But defense is all about communicating and staying locked in, and we’ve been really locked in these past couple weeks on defense.”

Prior to their most recent stretch of four games, the Hawkeyes had only held a conference opponent under 70 points on two occasions – Dec. 22 against Purdue at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and on the road versus Maryland Jan. 7.

Before they established their current three-game win streak, the Hawkeyes had lost four out of five games. In all four of those losses, Iowa surrendered 80 points or more. Iowa even allowed Ohio State to drop 89 points at Carver-Hawkeye Arena during that time.

“Obviously there was a stretch there where we lost four out of five,” junior guard Joe Wieskamp said. “When you go through that type of adversity, you look back and watch the film and see ways in which you can be better. I think when we did that, we saw a lot of uncharacteristic things and some mistakes that we shouldn’t be making. I think going through that is almost going to make us better. The way that we’re playing right now, we can make a deep run in the tournament. We just gotta continue to fight defensively. Our ability to defend and be up into teams’ spaces is leading to better offensive possessions as well.”

During their three-game win streak, Iowa hasn’t played an offense that currently cracks KenPom’s top 25 in adjusted offensive efficiency. Rutgers’ 26th-rated offense is the toughest Iowa has played since Feb. 4.

Of Iowa’s six losses this season, three have come against teams ranked inside KenPom’s top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency.

As of Thursday evening, the Hawkeyes are KenPom’s top-ranked team in adjusted offensive efficiency.

Iowa’s next game will come against a 7-11 Penn State team at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday.

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