IOWA CITY — The newbies have so much to learn, and yet they’re learning so quickly in their first few weeks of college basketball.
Iowa’s freshman point guards have had their struggles and their high moments through their first seven games. Mike Gesell scored 19 points against Western Kentucky, then withered the next night against Wichita State. Anthony Clemmons scored nine points against Virginia Tech but also fouled out.
Gesell, who averages 7.6 points a game as the starter, tries to put the Hawkeyes’ 5-2 start into context.
“I know that there’s going to be highs and lows in every season and the coaches told me coming in you can’t expect to play great in every game,” Gesell said. “You’ve got to try to give your best effort and go out there and if offense isn’t going, maybe get it done on defense. There’s always other ways you can do it if your offense isn’t flowing.”
Gesell drilled three 3-pointers against Western Kentucky at the Cancun Challenge. His impressive performance was marred against the Shockers. He faced fifth-year senior Malcolm Armstead, who badgered Gesell from the outset with physical play and quickness. Gesell quickly got into foul trouble, scored just two points, had three turnovers and no assists in 12 minutes.
But late in the game Gesell got tougher. He blew past Armstead and found Melsahn Basabe, who was fouled going toward the basket.
“Guys like that (Armstead), you’ve got to attack them,” Gesell said. “You can’t let them decide what they’re going to do. You’ve got to attack them on defense and offense. You can’t be complacent. You’ve got to be confident that you can compete with them.
“Personally I need to be more aggressive and looking to get guys open because it’s not just getting by your defender; it’s occupying maybe two defenders to try to draw that help and getting other guys open.”
Clemmons saw the way Virginia Tech’s athletes blew past Iowa in transition for 95 points. He was effective offensively with nine points, but it was the team’s defensive effort — including his own — that bothered him.
“I was thinking, ‘We’re not going to win any games if we don’t play defense,’” Clemmons said. “We can put up numbers. We’re all scorers.
Everybody’s scoring at the Division I level. So when I was thinking to myself that this team is not going to win unless we defend. That’s one thing that’s got to be our mindset. You’ve got to go in and shut teams down. You can’t allow them to score 80-plus points every game.”
Gesell and Clemmons are just getting their first taste of major college basketball. They’ve got a long way to go, but they’re learning fast.
“I watched more film since this season started than I have my whole life,” Gesell said. “I really like it a lot. You’re able to see what you’re doing in games and practices.”