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Senior a guiding force for Hawkeyes in practice
Mar. 19, 2015 9:59 pm
SEATTLE - Davidson's style of play blends the speed and 3-point capabilities of Indiana with the efficiency of Wisconsin.
That's a heck of a combination for any team to absorb, let alone a Big Ten opponent just days before the NCAA tournament. So to whom do the Hawkeyes' trust with the scouting report? Iowa guard Kyle Denning.
Denning has run the Hawkeyes' scout team for three seasons. He accepts the coach's report and tries to execute it on the practice floor. The coaches have complete faith in Denning, and he rewards then with how quickly he processes their report.
'I have that kind of confidence in him, and all the coaches do,” Iowa assistant Kirk Speraw said. 'He's very trustworthy.”
Davidson (24-7), which plays Iowa (21-11) at 6:20 p.m. Friday at KeyArena, ranks third nationally in 3-pointers (337), 3-point attempts and assists per game. The Wildcats rank sixth in fewest turnovers and average 79.9 points. That presents challenges for the staff to formulate a scouting report and then execute it. That's where Denning comes in.
Before one recent game, Speraw handed his report to Denning. The senior implemented it with the scout team so quickly that Speraw didn't have a chance to introduce it. For Davidson, both Speraw and Denning learned the scouting report almost concurrently.
'(Davidson's offense has) some intricacies to them, and it's hard to pick up all those nuances,” Speraw said.
'When we first were introduced to it, it's kind of a crazy offense,” Denning said. 'It took us a while to get used to it. We hadn't seen anything like it. So it took us about a half-hour to get it together, and I tried to run it as best as I could.”
Denning has played in only eight games and earned a scholarship strictly for this year. But he takes his role seriously, and his teammates appreciate it.
'Obviously Coach (Fran) McCaffery loves him, and he's done an awesome job,” Iowa senior guard Josh Oglesby said. 'We've always said that K.D. is one of the smartest, most intelligent guys on the court.”
Davidson's fast-tempo offense boasts precise cuts, passes and screens. Movement is key, as is unselfishness. The Wildcats aren't tall, but they work to get open and find creases in the defense.
'They're able to spread you out, they can shoot the ball very well,” Iowa guard Mike Gesell said. 'They're probably the best catch-and-shoot 3-point shooting team in the country.”
Iowa's practices have been intense this week and are geared on defending the perimeter. Davidson guard Tyler Kalinoski was the Atlantic-10's player of the year. He averaged 17 points, posted 128 assists to 44 turnovers and shot 43.1 percent from 3-point range. Five different Davidson players attempted at least 100 3-pointers this year and all of them hit at least 41. Kalinoski made 91, while guard Brian Sullivan drilled 81.
'If you don't close out with a high hand one time they're whacking a 3 right in your face,” Gesell said. 'You've got to be ready, you've got to be locked in on every single possession. In tournament play you can't relax for one second.
'(McCaffery is) really focused on stopping the 3-point shot. In practice he's really gotten after us and our scout team has done a tremendous job of getting us ready for this game.”
Again, Denning. He runs the show, while freshman shooting guard freshmen Brady Ellingson mimics Davidson's top-flight shooters. Denning has guided his teammates through dozens of scouts during his career. Davidson ranked among his most difficult, he said.
'This one is right up there, but also Wisconsin was pretty difficult with the pace they play at and they don't turn the ball over,” Denning said. 'That's pretty different. But this one has to be up there.”
Sometimes heroes rarely play. If Iowa beats Davidson, that's certainly the case for the Hawkeyes.
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