After starting the season 7-0, the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team has lost its last two games against arguably the two best teams they’ve played so far. Snapping that losing streak won’t get any easier when they head to Hilton Coliseum to play the undefeated, No. 17 Iowa State Cyclones.
“We have to execute a little bit better against teams like we’ve played the last two games,” coach Fran McCaffery said. “We didn’t do it the last two games. We’re playing another ranked team, that’s undefeated, on the road. It’s another great opportunity.”
The Cyclones have been a bit of a surprise to start the season. They were picked to finish last in the Big 12 preseason poll. They’re 8-0 so far, with wins over No. 9 Memphis and No. 25 Xavier.
Their early-season success has a lot to do with their play on the defensive end, as they’re allowing just 60.1 points per game. That ranks 39th in the country.
“They really bought into the defensive concepts, and they’re playing really well together at both ends,” coach McCaffery said. “They’re creating some offense with their defense. They’re creating a chemistry that is reflected at the offensive end that is a result of what they’re doing defensively.”
On paper it looks to be a battle of something’s got to give in several ways.
First off, the Hawkeyes will test that tough defense, as they come into this game with the fourth ranked offense in the country, at 90.1 points per game. Though they’ve been doing it with the nation’s leading scorer, Keegan Murray, not quite at 100 percent. He had 19 points and two rebounds in the 87-83 loss to Illinois on Monday.
“I think he felt pretty good,” coach McCaffery said. “It was important for him to really get going the way he did. He was trying in the first half, but he had a couple roll out on him, shots he normally makes, not uncommon when you miss a game and you hadn’t practiced.”
They’ve also been doing it without significant output from senior guard Jordan Bohannon. The sharpshooter has only topped five points once in the last five games and is shooting just 42 percent.
“He’s always going to have the green light,” said McCaffery. “We’ve got to do a better job of freeing him up, finding opportunities for him to get shots. I don’t want to put it on him. I think we got to put it on us to get him shots and and find him openings.”
There’s no better place for the super senior to get right than Ames.
It’s also a matchup featuring a team that forces the seventh most turnovers in the country (Iowa State), and a team that turns it over the second least (Iowa.)
“We have smart kids,” coach McCaffery said. “We have guys that understand how to play. A lot of times turnovers are the result of some selfishness. Guys just driving because they want to shoot now. We don’t do that. We make good decisions. We respect each other.”
A win would be the Hawkeyes’ fourth Cy-Hawk win in a row. The game is set to tip at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.