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Cleaning things up

This news story was published on February 1, 2012.
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John Bohnenkamp, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa –

IOWA CITY – It’s easy to pinpoint the recent problems of the Iowa basketball team.

The Hawkeyes can’t defend, and they’re having a hard time getting rebounds.

It explains why they have lost five of their last six games, and need to get things turned around this week in home games tonight against Minnesota and Saturday against Penn State.

“We’re going to stick together,” guard Bryce Cartwright said. “We have to hold each other accountable, make sure everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing on defense. And when we rebound, we have to box out. There’s a lot of things we have to do.”

“We’ve got a lot of things we need to clean up,” guard Matt Gatens said.

The Hawkeyes (11-11 overall, 3-6 Big Ten) have given up an average of 73 points per game, worst in the Big Ten. Their field goal percentage defense is also worst in the league at .461. And they are 10th in the conference in rebound margin with minus-0.2.

The numbers are worse in conference games. They’ve given up an average of 77 points per game, opponents have shot 47.8 percent against them, and the rebound margin is minus-4.

In Sunday’s 103-89 loss at Indiana, the Hawkeyes allowed 20 offensive rebounds that led to 23 second-chance points, and the Hoosiers shot 55.2 percent for the game.

Those kind of numbers prompted coach Fran McCaffery to question his team’s toughness.

“Ultimately it comes down to a matter of toughness, and we lack that right now, I don’t mind saying it,” McCaffery said. “We don’t have the toughness that’s necessary to defend in the league. It’s incumbent upon me and my staff to get our guys to not only execute fundamentally, but to be more physical, be tougher, and do it more consistently.”

McCaffery wants his team to be more physical, but he doesn’t want play to get too rough.

“You don’t want to just start chopping guys,” he said.

“You don’t want to just tackle some guy,” Gatens said. “We’re not going to do that. But I do think we have to get tougher. I think we have tough guys. It’s just not coming together right now.”

Iowa has already beaten Minnesota (16-6, 4-5) once this season – a 64-62 road win on Jan. 4. The Gophers have two players inside – forwards Rodney Williams and Ralph Sampson III – who combine to average more than 10 rebounds per game.

McCaffery switched his lineup on Sunday, using forward Aaron White and guard Bryce Cartwright as starters while bringing forwards Eric May and Melsahn Basabe off the bench. It’s unclear if McCaffery will make more changes for this game.

“I don’t know what radical changes I could make,” he said.

But it’s clear McCaffery knows the Hawkeyes have to change the way they’re playing.

“We’ve got to get better at the defensive end of the floor,” he said.

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