Points in Transition: Iowa vs. Indiana preview

Hawkeyes and Hoosiers similar in several ways

Iowa Hawkeyes forward Tyler Cook (5) dunks the ball over Penn State Nittany Lions guard Shep Garner (33) during the second half of a men's basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Saturday, December 2, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes forward Tyler Cook (5) dunks the ball over Penn State Nittany Lions guard Shep Garner (33) during the second half of a men's basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Saturday, December 2, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

There’s no rest for the weary. The Iowa men’s basketball team doesn’t have much time to think about a Big Ten-opening loss — and maybe that’s a good thing. Going to Assembly Hall never is an easy task, regardless of the state of Indiana.

For every conference game, we’ll look at key players, strengths and weaknesses for both teams and the key to winning for both sides. Here’s a breakdown of the matchup between Iowa and Indiana:

Player to Watch

Iowa: Tyler Cook, forward — It was against the Hoosiers last year that gave the Hawkeyes the closing moment of its intro video for home games: Cook’s staredown of Thomas Bryant. Cook has produced more than a few of those moments (hold that thought), and probably will need to again. He was very productive against Penn State, and if he cleans up his mistakes, is going to go a long way toward helping Iowa to a potential road win.

Indiana: Juwan Morgan, forward — The guy who will be opposite Cook — they’ll likely guard each other quite a bit — and on whom the Hoosiers have relied quite a bit so far this season. Morgan attacks the rim with efficiency, both to score and clean things up. He’s among the best players in the country in offensive rating and offensive rebound percentage, according to KenPom. He also ranks highly in block percentage and fouls drawn per 40 minutes. He affects the game at both ends, and will be a handful.

Strengths

Iowa: At the moment, it feels like the best thing to point out about the Hawkeyes is Tyler Cook’s dunking ability. That’s in part because aside from the first half at Virginia Tech and a couple brief stretches against Penn State, Iowa hasn’t had a ton to write home about recently.

The other aspect here is Cook’s dunks have been pretty incredible. There are two we’re going to talk about here, and though you probably can guess which ones already, let’s talk about them anyway.

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The first one was at Virginia Tech. Cook drove the lane between two Hokies defenders, while a third meekly reached a hand in, and slammed it with his left through contact. All but the smattering of Iowa fans in Cassell Coliseum went completely silent. It seemed like everyone couldn’t fully comprehend what happened.

The second was Saturday against Penn State. Jordan Bohannon tossed it forward off a turnover to Cook, who had just Shep Garner waiting in the lane. Garner tried in vain to take a charge. Instead, Cook posterized Garner, got the foul and cut the lead to two. It was one of the first times all night where Carver-Hawkeye Arena got loud.

Both dunks were for naught, of course. But they were strong.

Indiana: The Hoosiers enter this game with the same record as the Hawkeyes at 4-4 and 0-1 in the Big Ten after losing to Michigan on Saturday. They also have one bad — really bad — loss on the books in a 90-69 demolition to Indiana State, a team picked to finish near the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference.

All that said, Indiana has been good offensively this year. At 1.117 points per possession, the Hoosiers are one of the top 50 in the country in terms of offensive efficiency. They shoot it pretty well — 54.4 percent effective field goals — and finish well in the paint at 56.5 percent on 2-point field goals. Indiana relies on its frontcourt quite a bit, and has done so by crashing the boards and working inside out in offensive sets.

The other thing to acknowledge here is that after that Indiana State loss, the other three losses have come to No. 24 Seton Hall (No. 20 on KenPom), No. 1 Duke (No. 6 on KenPom) and Michigan (No. 42 on KenPom). The Duke loss came after Indiana led a bunch and forced the Blue Devils to come back.

Weaknesses

Iowa: Not to echo the Hawkeyes’ head coach too much, or sound like his mouthpiece, but it’s painfully obvious Iowa is consistently inconsistent. That’s on a possession by possession basis a lot of times.

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You have heard and are going to hear the Hawkeyes say things like “we need to put 40 minutes together,” and “we need to be more consistent,” in the short term. What’s so maddening about that — for the Hawkeyes, their coach and their fans — is it probably shouldn’t be this way.

Iowa still is one of the youngest teams in the country, but everyone but Luka Garza, Jack Nunge and Maishe Dailey contributed last year. Being the same team night-to-night and possession-to-possession is easier said than done, to be certain, but this group is one that’s been through this before.

Cordell Pemsl acknowledged the Hawkeyes believed they’d be farther along than they are right now after the Penn State loss.

“I think we expected to be at a much better place than we are,” Pemsl said. “If we keep pushing and grinding and get to a place where we want to be — which we show in spurts — then we’ll be OK. We need to get there sooner than later because we’re eight games into the year already. There’s not a lot of room for losses.”

Indiana: The Hoosiers are a lot like the Hawkeyes right now, actually. The success they’ve had has been primarily on offense and from the frontcourt, and the weaknesses have come defensively.

Indiana has allowed 1.047 points per possession (203rd on KenPom), 54.4 percent effective field goal percentage (277th), 29.5 offensive rebound percentage to opponents (196th) and 40.7 percent from 3 to opponents (317th). While the Hawkeyes also work inside out in terms of their strength, Bohannon and Isaiah Moss’ shooting could have a field day if the Hoosiers play the way they have been on the perimeter.

Indiana’s schedule has been tough, but other than the Duke game, when it's lost, it’s been in a blowout and because it couldn’t keep players in front of them or close out effectively enough.

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Iowa wins if …

the guards can get going from outside and the frontcourt can protect the rim. The Hawkeyes have the ability to take advantage of the Hoosiers’ weak spots, but can’t have the lulls they’ve had recently if they want to seal the deal.

Indiana wins if …

the frontcourt can control the flow of the game and set the tone inside. The Hoosiers have the same ability the Hawkeyes do of exploiting weaknesses, but are likely going to have to do it by take advantage of a still-searching Iowa frontcourt defense.

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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