DES MOINES — The postgame rhetoric from Iowa players and coaches belie the team’s actions on the court.
In the wake of a 56-44 loss to Northern Iowa, Iowa’s players spoke of working together, believing in themselves and staying positive. But after a second straight double-digit loss to an instate opponent, the players’ demeanor suggests they’re losing confidence and searching for answers.
“I love the guys in the locker room,” Iowa senior Aaron White said. “We’re all there for each other, just stay together, unite as one. We know there’s going to be naysayers and people doubting us. We’ve just got to band together — the guys in the locker room — and fight through this little spell that we’re in. We’re going to get through it together, that’s the main thing.”
The Hawkeyes (8-4) sank just three of 24 shots in the second half, and the 44 total points was lowest for Iowa under McCaffery. Iowa missed all seven 3-point attempts after halftime and the offensive malaise was collective. The Hawkeyes’ four primary guards — Anthony Clemmons, Mike Gesell, Josh Oglesby and Peter Jok — combined to hit just five of 20. Starting center Adam Woodbury sank just one of nine shots, and Aaron White was two of eight from the field.
“I think we’re all staying confident,” Gesell said. “We’ve got very good shooters on this team, and we’ll keep shooting the ball.”
Iowa ranks 13th among Big Ten teams in field-goal percentage at 40.9 percent, a fall from third last year. Only newcomer Rutgers (38.4 percent) is worse. Iowa ranks last in 3-point shooting percentage and was fifth last year.
Nationally, Iowa ranks 275th in shooting percentage and 281st in 3-point percentage.
The players’ mannerisms displayed a lack of confidence against UNI, drifting from frustration early in the second half to resignation by game’s end.
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“As frustrated as they might be, I’m frustrated for them because to a man they’re coming in and they’re getting extra shots up,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “They are. They’re making shots in practice, and they’re working the ball in practice.
“I’ve always been a believer that if guys are struggling, you keep encouraging them, you keep wanting them to shoot the ball and that’s how I respond. I don’t kind of make a big thing about it. But clearly, they’re feeling pressure. I don’t know if they’re feeling pressure or they’re putting pressure on themselves but really good shooters are missing wide-open shots.”
Entering Monday’s non-conference finale against North Florida (7-5), McCaffery is re-evaluating his team. Lineup changes are possible along with adjustments in minutes. Everything appears on the table.
“It’s one of those situations where you don’t want to get too down on yourself, but you want to be honest with yourself,” McCaffery said. “We’ve got to change some things. We’ve got to be better in some areas. I thought we were better in some areas than we were last Friday (against Iowa State). But we weren’t good enough.”
NOTE: Starting shooting guard Anthony Clemmons suffered an ankle injury late against Northern Iowa. If he can’t play, sophomore Peter Jok will earn his first start, McCaffery said.
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