In the span of seven weeks or so, the Iowa men’s basketball team has gone from being roadkill to road warriors.
The Hawkeyes were 1-8 in Big Ten road games and trailed in each by at least 17 points at some point, even the one they won.
This season? Iowa is 4-3 in such contests, and has won four of the last five. That was after starting this conference season with three defeats that included losses by 24 points at Michigan State and by 16 at Purdue.
The Hawkeyes are at Ohio State Tuesday night (6 p.m.). When they beat the Buckeyes 72-62 at home on Jan. 12, they had just come off a 73-63 win at Northwestern three days earlier that began to redefine their personality away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The difference in Iowa now and Iowa then?
“I’m not sure there’s anything appreciable,” Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery said Monday, “other than just through the process we’ve grown. Individuals, I think, have played well and we’ve gotten more experience and gotten more comfortable.”
A look at the team’s last five road games shows one vital statistic in which Iowa has outshone its foes, and two in which the Hawkeyes have been equal or a little better.
In 3-point shooting, Iowa is 40.4 percent in those games as opposed to its opponents’ 33.1. That’s a big difference.
“You can never control, ‘Hey, we’re going to make 10 3s or 12 3s,’ ” McCaffery said. “If you do that you’ve got a great chance to beat anybody on any given day.
“But if you’re turning it over and you’re getting pounded on the glass, you’re not winning on the road.”
Which brings us to those two other vital stats. Iowa has a plus-2.8 rebounding margin in its last five road games, and has committed just one more turnover than its foes over those games.
Rebounding is rebounding. You’re competent at it or you aren’t. Controlling turnovers is a product of poise and decision-making, and that’s where experience and depth come into play.
Thus, 21st-ranked Iowa is 10-6 at this point of the Big Ten season (and 21-6 overall) as opposed to 3-13 a year ago.
“I think what you’ve seen with our team is we’re not one-dimensional,” McCaffery said, “we’re not one or two guys who have to play well. We have various people that have proven over time they can step up and be a factor in any particular game at the either end.
“I think that’s been critical for this team to be able to win consistently in this league. You have to have depth, you have to have experience, you have to have people that understand and accept their roles.”
Tuesday’s game is unto itself, of course. Ohio State has been a mercurial team since it broke to a 12-1 start and was in the national rankings.
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But the Buckeyes are still in most bracketologists’ NCAA Tournament brackets. And the road is still the road.
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