IOWA CITY – Iowa resumed Big Ten Conference play Tuesday night, and with it returned many of the issues that plagued the Hawkeyes during the stretch where Coach Fran McCaffery’s team lost six out of seven. Iowa fell to Michigan, 75-68 to drop to 0-3 in conference play.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Open shots are easier shots
Every other possession throughout Tuesday night’s game, it seemed, Michigan (13-3, 2-1) had a wide-open shooter. Scratch that, two out of every three possessions in some stretches. Whether Iowa (9-7, 0-3) was in zone or man, Michigan’s ball movement seemed to have the Hawkeyes chasing.
When the Wolverines went on the 22-4 run that basically gave them the buffer they held the rest of the game, it seemed like a layup drill for the guys in blue at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Breakdowns in halfcourt defense and more glaringly in transition gave Michigan easy looks at the basket, leading to the Wolverines shooting 62.1 percent in the first half and 49.1 percent for the game.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had a standout second half, and finished with nearly a triple-double at 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Iowa rotated individual defenders on him, but it didn’t seem to make a huge difference.
2. Tyler Cook was a monster
If there was a bright spot out of Iowa’s latest Big Ten loss, it was sophomore forward Tyler Cook.
When Cook was in, he was a force offensively. Whether it was Jon Teske or Moritz Wagner on him defensively, he seemed to get whatever he wanted – from various spots on the floor. He had a few dunks that would’ve been poster-worthy were in not for the Hawkeyes’ losing the game.
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Cook finished with 28 points and eight rebounds in 34 minutes. Whenever Cook left the floor, Iowa seemed to fall apart offensively. On more than one occasion, Cook left the floor and Iowa went from down eight or nine to 15 or 16.
The good news there is if the rest of the issues get figured out, this is a plus going forward. The bad news was he didn’t have a ton of help.
3. The issues remain
In snapping a five-game winning streak, the Hawkeyes gave credence to the thought that the success they had over those five games had as much to do with the level of competition as it did the measurable improvements they had made themselves.
The Hawkeyes regressed in ways that suggest the problems from the first two Big Ten games were the rule, not the exception. Throughout Tuesday’s game, offensive roles seemed fluid – in a bad way. Not nearly enough of Iowa’s looks were in rhythm outside the paint. Defense was chasing and lost on several occasions.
Cook’s impact means the offense likely needs to flow through him – as long as he’s not in foul trouble. There’s not a lot about Tuesday that Iowa can leave happy about.