AMES — If it feels like a broken record to hear it, it’s for sure a broken record for the Iowa men’s basketball team to talk about turnovers and decision-making sinking hopes at a victory against Iowa State at a raucous Hilton Coliseum.
The Hawkeyes (4-6, 0-2 Big Ten) looked for most of Thursday night like they had at least in large part addressed the issues that led to losses at Virginia Tech, against Penn State and at Indiana. A five-point halftime lead and the final 8:46 of the opening frame without a turnover seemed evidence enough that something was starting to click back into focus for a struggling offense.
But as has happened more often than not this season, lapses in key moments did Iowa in. With 12 second-half turnovers, the Hawkeyes let the Cyclones get comfortable using their quickness.
Sometimes it’s as simple as 28 points off turnovers.
“You’ve got good kids trying to make plays that aren’t there,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “There’s a fine line between understanding being aggressive and being a player and going to make a play and when there’s no play there to be made and the best thing to do is just move it. When you have that figured out collectively, your offense is going to run smoothly.
“It was for a good portion of this game. It wasn’t in other portions. That’s sort of been problematic along the way this year.”
Thursday marked the third straight game in which Iowa had 18 turnovers, and in losing six of its last seven, McCaffery’s group has turned it over at least 14 times in each loss.
Across the board, the reaction to those turnovers from the Hawkeyes and their coaches has been that it’s a group of guys trying a little too hard to help their teammates.
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"It’s not like we’re selfishly trying to make plays," Tyler Cook said, "but when we see things we try to go and sometimes try to force things and obviously it doesn’t work out.”
Junior forward Nicholas Baer said, “I think some of it is a lack of focus.”
There’s the old proverb that says, “he who hesitates is lost.” Maybe the opposite can be true, too.
“Coach says it a lot for us,” Bohannon said. “I don’t know if it’s just our running game not going this year, a little indecisive, not knowing where to throw the ball. We’re not moving it out we want to. Obviously it’s really frustrating because we’re getting in games we should be winning.
“To change, you have to change. There are things we’re analyzing, there’s things we’re critiquing about each other.”
The signs of life Iowa showed against a rebuilding Iowa State team were noteworthy, even if the turnovers remained the culprit.
Jack Nunge finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists with no turnovers. Bohannon found his shooting stroke again, leading the Hawkeyes with 19 points on 5 of 10 shooting from 3. Maishe Dailey had six points, six rebounds and just one turnover. Cook had just two points, but grabbed eight rebounds and had five assists. Cordell Pemsl had 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists and no turnovers before leaving with an injury McCaffery said Iowa initially feared was a broken leg, but will wait for a trip to the hospital to determine. Collectively, Iowa outrebounding Iowa State 53-31.
So armed with the positives and the fact that in a few of the losses there were tangible moments where the Hawkeyes looked like they had it figured out, what needs to change? Can the approach be different, or is it focusing on hammering home what’s already been said?
McCaffery and Co. have to figure that out in a hurry.
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“We try to methodically break down what happened — what was good, what was bad,” McCaffery said. “We all know the turnovers were problematic, and the disappointing thing is they’ve been problematic.
“It’s all reads, unless we’re completely running sets. In motion, you’ve got to get the ball side to side. It’s all reads and reactions. Unfortunately we’ve made some poor reads. The only thing you can do is watch it, show it to them; talk about it. We’ve got smart kids. They’ll get it figured out.”
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