What a faux pas it is to look ahead in Big Ten men’s basketball. And yet ...
No. 5 Iowa is riding a 4-game winning streak in the league, no small thing. But the Hawkeyes could double-up on that going into its game at No. 14 Illinois in Champaign on Jan. 29.
Iowa (11-2, 5-1 Big Ten) hosts Michigan State (8-4, 2-4) Thursday at 8:05 p.m., plays at Northwestern next Monday night at 6, then has home games against Indiana on Jan. 21 (time to be determined) and Nebraska on Jan. 24 (1 p.m.)
For now, the Hawkeyes would be favored to win each of those games. Being favored and being the winner are two different things, of course. Illinois could tell you that, having been upset at home to Maryland Sunday.
“It’s hard winning in this league,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said after his team’s 86-71 home win over Minnesota Sunday. “What you have to do is understand what went into it. Appreciate that.
“You have to fight through some adversity throughout the course of the game, which we did. And then you’ve got to step back and enjoy it. Enjoy it with your teammates, enjoy it with your family. And then put your helmet back on.”
It isn’t hard to break down how the Hawkeyes have swept their last four foes. It’s been some of about everything. Shooting, rebounding, passing, defense and depth are categories in which Iowa has been superior to its foes in wins over Northwestern, Rutgers, Maryland and Minnesota.
The Hawkeyes have had the rebounding edge in all six of their Big Ten contests. They have outshot the other team in each of their last four games, and have made 55 percent of their 3-pointers over the last two contests to the opposition’s 31.9 percent.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
In Iowa’s 89-67 win at Maryland last Thursday, reserves Keegan Murray, Patrick McCaffery, Jack Nunge and Joe Toussaint were in the game for almost the entirety of the Hawkeyes’ 20-0 first-half run.
Against Minnesota Sunday, however, the starters accounted for all but nine of Iowa’s 86 points.
At Maryland, guard Connor McCaffery had 10 assists. Against the Gophers, current Big Ten Co-Player of the Week Jordan Bohannon had 14. Who has two different players record 10 assists in the span of four days?
In the last two games, we’ve seen more of 6-foot-11 Luka Garza and 6-11 Nunge together on the floor. Nunge had 10 rebounds against Minnesota in 17 minutes.
“We’re fortunate that we have more depth maybe since I’ve been here,” Fran McCaffery said. “We can go big, we can go with length, we can go small. But either way, we’re getting productivity. I think that’s the critical thing.”
In the meantime, the man in the middle has been a constant. Garza has averaged 25.0 points in the current win streak, making 62.5 percent of his field goal tries and 22 of his 25 free throw attempts (88 percent).
Garza’s 33-point effort against Minnesota was his second against the Gophers and sixth of the season. Going into Monday’s games, no other Division I player had more than three 30-point games.
Comments: (319) 368-8840; email@example.com