WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — With nine days between games, Iowa’s players and coaches have the necessary time to reflect on their first portion of the Big Ten schedule and refine their approach for the league’s stretch run.
Iowa’s 3-4 league start — the same record Iowa had in its last winning Big Ten season in 2007 — Iowa’s confidence is strong, despite losing three of its last four. For the coaches, the break is a chance smooth out the rough spots and make the necessary corrections to make a push in the league race.
“We’ll get a little recruiting in as a staff, and we’ll start working individually on some of the things that we felt were breakdowns in this game (Purdue) and the games that we lost and try to improve,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Tuesday.
Iowa lost 75-68 at Purdue, and the game gave McCaffery plenty to think about during the break. Sophomore forward Zach McCabe has emerged as a versatile offensive threat. McCabe scored a career-high 20 points with three 3-pointers but also was tenacious inside, picking up four baskets and five rebounds in 36 minutes. His Purdue effort comes off an 11-point performance against Michigan, which he scored the game’s first six points.
Sophomore forward Melsahn Basabe added another layer to his roller-coaster season with a forgettable performance. Basabe scored just one point in seven minutes and was called for four fouls against Purdue. Basabe was hit twice within the game’s first four minutes and sat the rest of the first half. He was dinged for an offensive foul on Iowa’s third possession of the second half and was hit for a fourth with 13:27 left.
It was the second time this Big Ten season Basabe was held without a field goal.
“He never got going,” McCaffery said. “He got two (fouls) early. The mistake I made was I should have put the kid back in the game with two (fouls). Because when he sits for 15 minutes, he’s just not as effective in the second half. I probably should have done that.
“I didn’t do that because (Aaron) White and McCabe were playing so well. At the start (of the second half, Basabe) gets his third. I put him back in and he gets his fourth. He never really seemed to get settled down. We need him in a game like this because when a team is rebounding like that, especially offensively, he’s a terrific defensive rebounder.”
Iowa struggled defensively in two areas against Purdue. McCaffery described the Boilermakers as “heavy right-handed drivers and that’s where they were going,” which irritated him. Purdue also crashed the boards for 16 offensive rebounds, including nine in the second half.
“We gave them too many offensive rebounds which is everybody, all five of us, need to get in there and rough it up and get some rebounds,” Iowa senior Matt Gatens said.
But there also are positives going into their break. Iowa has beaten two ranked league opponents and had its chances twice against Purdue. Iowa faces only one more ranked opponent — Indiana, twice — in its final 11 Big Ten games. Iowa’s first seven Big Ten opponents (counting Purdue twice) have a 26-17 conference record. Iowa’s final 11 opponents have a combined 16-24 Big Ten record. Only league leader Illinois (4-1) has a winning Big Ten record.
With one more win, Iowa can surpass its victory total from each of the last two seasons.
“There are some positives, but there are some things we need to work on in the next nine days and get ready for Nebraska,” Gatens said.