Time is a jet plane. It moves too fast.
So wrote someone named Bob Dylan in the song “You’re a Big Girl Now.” Dylan is the only person from Hibbing, Minn., more famous than former Minnesota Gophers/Boston Celtics star Kevin McHale.
The fourth-ranked Iowa men’s basketball team jets to Minneapolis for a 7 p.m. game Friday against the Golden Gophers. Time flies for the Hawkeyes. They lost to No. 1 Gonzaga in a hyped matchup last Saturday in South Dakota, but shoved their disappointment aside in a hurry to start their Big Ten season three days later.
Iowa rebounded with a 70-55 home win against Purdue Tuesday night. But the second of 20 conference games comes as fast as the first one, and it’s away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where the 7-1 Hawkeyes are 7-0.
You have to put aside the wins as quickly as the losses. Neither is necessarily easy to do for some teams, but Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery cites his players’ experience as an advantage in that regard. If there were an emotional hangover from the Gonzaga loss, it lasted no longer than the time it takes to pop an aspirin.
“We don’t let it linger,” McCaffery said after Tuesday’s win. “Let’s say we won the (Gonzaga) game. The last two days we would’ve been ranked No. 1, everybody would’ve been saying how great we are. And we’ve got to battle Purdue. We know what playing Purdue is like. They kicked us twice last year.
“So I think a team’s ability to understand that is going to be the key to success for the rest of the season.”
Defense was Iowa’s strength against Purdue. Defense, or rather, a lack of it, was the big takeaway from the Gonzaga game.
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Said McCaffery: “Our approach has always been to play the game, analyze the game, be honest with each other and make some adjustments, make some improvements. That’s collectively and individually.
“We had some guys that had some serious defensive breakdowns that shouldn’t have had them, and we point it out to them. We don’t belittle them, we don’t scream and yell, but we show it to them so they can see it and then we drill it and then we put the game plan in.”
Iowa’s Luka Garza referred back to the 14-19 season he experienced as a freshman three seasons ago.
“When you add up all the experience we have, we know how to bounce back from losses,” Garza said.
“With all the adversity we had last year, I think we had freshmen who grew up really quick in CJ (Fredrick) and Joe Toussaint. Going through last year for them has made them veterans, and they’re only sophomores.”
Toussaint is a point guard who gives Iowa’s offense a different look off the bench with his speeded-up, attacking style. He had four assists in just 11 minutes Tuesday, including a pair of sweet setups to Keegan Murray for dunks.
Fredrick had six points in 34 minutes against Purdue, but his plus-minus was plus-25. That means the Hawkeyes outscored the Boilermakers by 25 points when Fredrick was on the floor and were outscored by 10 in the six minutes he wasn’t. No one else was better than plus-13.
“CJ is a complete player, so his defense was spectacular,” McCaffery said. “So it starts with that. And then he makes shots. He moves without the ball. He makes plays off the dribble. He recognizes when teams are flying at him or when they’re overplaying him.
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“Essentially, he’s always in the right place and always making the right decision. From the first time I started watching him play he’s never been a mistake guy. … A lot of guys aren’t. They make mistakes, they make bad decisions, put their heads down and drive into traffic, and he just constantly makes the right decision and he always puts winning first.”
Iowa will need more defense Friday. Minnesota junior guard Marcus Carr is averaging 25 points and 6.3 assists over seven home games, all wins.
The Hawkeyes’ victory over Purdue is in the contrails that jets paint across the sky. The next game is almost here, again.
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