By Adam Hensley
Not many would have predicted Iowa to sit at .500 through the first eight games of its season, but the Hawkeyes must live with the reality.
The same can be said with Indiana.
Today’s 7 p.m. matchup with the Hoosiers (4-4) provides the Hawkeyes (4-4) with a prime opportunity to get their first Big Ten win of the season and momentum to build upon before heading to Ames later in the week to take on Iowa State.
“You’re always trying to get your team to be more consistent and to be more efficient and better in various areas,” head coach Fran McCaffery said after Iowa’s 77-73 loss to Penn State on Dec. 2. “The disappointing thing, I think, with this group is we had guys, most of those guys have done that. They have been consistent, they have been connected, and they’re not right now.”
Against Penn State, not much went Iowa’s way.
Turnovers caught up with the Hawkeyes like a bad cold; the Black and Gold committed 18 giveaways while only assisting on 16 shots.
Iowa only hit four of its 12 shots from 3-point range, while Penn State cooked from deep (12-for-23 from 3-point range).
Following the final buzzer, the consensus was that the Hawkeyes needed to jump-start their toughness if they want to win any more games this year.
“There’s definitely still room to improve,” forward Nicholas Baer said. “There’s spurts of it, I think, but that’s the thing about toughness — you can’t play in spurts.”
Tyler Cook finished as one of the few bright spots for Iowa, scoring 23 points and grabbing 12 rebounds (7 of which came on the offensive glass), but he wasn’t pleased with Iowa’s cold start.
The Nittany Lions roared to a 10-point lead within the game’s first few minutes, and Iowa did not hold any lead for the entire game.
“I think its just a collective intense effort out of the gate,” Cook said. “Especially with our starting five, our five guys need to be locked in from the jump.”
Indiana has lost its first two conference games of the season, but the Hoosiers, in a similar boat as the Hawkeyes, won’t roll over easily.
Indiana hung with Duke for most of its early season matchup, losing by only 10, but the Hoosiers found themselves on the losing end to lesser teams such as Indiana State, which blew out Indiana by 21.
Just like Iowa, Indiana has three players averaging double figures in the scoring column. Forward Juwan Morgan leads the team, scoring 13.6 points per game — almost 6 points more than his average last season.
Robert Johnson follows Morgan in scoring, netting 13.1 points per game. Shooting 3-pointers at a 36.4-percent clip, Johnson flashed his ability to score from deep (4-of-6 3-pointers against Eastern Michigan, 3-of-3 3-pointers against South Florida), but hasn’t made a shot from 3-point range since Nov. 29 against Duke.
Consistency, something the Hoosiers are struggling to find, remains the Hawkeyes’ top goal.
Plenty of hype surrounded this season’s team. There was — and still is — a surplus of potential with McCaffery’s team, but it’s a matter of getting the players in-sync.
“I think you have to be honest,” McCaffery said. “You know, I think you have to challenge them. But I don’t think you can beat them up. I definitely don’t think you can point fingers. You start playing the blame game and then don’t take any responsibility for yourself, that’s me, then I think you lose the locker room.”