Thursday, December 12, 2013
Depth propels No. 23 Iowa to 10-1 start
(Eds: With AP Photos.)
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa coach Fran McCaffery's solution to having 10 guys who can play has been to play them all.
It has made the 23rd-ranked Hawkeyes one of the deepest and most dangerous teams in the country.
Iowa's rotation is the envy of opponents everywhere. The Hawkeyes have 10 players averaging at least 15 minutes per game, and they're getting nearly half of their Big Ten-leading 89.5 points a game from their backups.
Iowa's experienced and athletic reserves have allowed the Hawkeyes to push the tempo whenever they want.
They rank fourth nationally with a scoring margin of plus-24.6 a game heading into Friday night's game at No. 17 Iowa State (7-0).
"The thing that they're great at is transition offense. They really get out and run," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They're great on the glass as well. Those are going to be two huge keys for us, is getting back in transition and trying to slow them down and limit them to one shot, which is easier said than done."
Iowa's exceptional bench numbers have been boosted by its six wins of at least 30 points, which has allowed its reserves to play extensive minutes.
If the bench has a star, it's forward Jarrod Uthoff.
Uthoff has come off the bench in every game in part because of the performance of senior Melsahn Basabe. But Uthoff is the team's leading rebounder, and his presence at the end of tight games is a testament to how much McCaffery trusts him.
Basabe and Uthoff both racked up double-doubles in Monday night's 92-59 blowout of Fairleigh Dickinson.
Basabe and Uthoff were joined by junior center Gabe Olaseni, whose 14 points and 10 boards gave Iowa three players with regulation double-doubles for the first time since 1993.
Though Olaseni has yet to earn a starting nod over 7-foot-1 sophomore Adam Woodbury despite superior statistics, it hasn't mattered.
The two of them have combined the give the Hawkeyes all-conference type production.
The pair have 12.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in just over 32 minutes a game. Though McCaffery has toyed with pairing them together -- and did so briefly on Monday night -- the Hawkeyes seem content with bringing Olaseni off the bench.
Olaseni has consistently given Iowa a boost of energy with his athleticism and shot-blocking ability, and his offense is quickly coming along. Olaseni is up to 7.1 points a game after a career-high 14 points against Fairleigh Dickinson.
"You can see how much more comfortable he is," McCaffery said. "I love his aggressiveness and the confidence he has in himself right now."
Peter Jok, the only freshman in Iowa's rotation, has taken advantage of all those blowouts to show his promise as a potential scorer in years to come.
Senior forward Zach McCabe, once a starter, is playing the best basketball of his career through 11 games. He's shooting 48.5 percent from 3-point range.
"He is playing exactly like I thought he would, based on how he prepared this summer," McCaffery said. "His game has really matured. He's not afraid of a challenge. I'm really happy for him. He's at the peak of his game, no question.
But where Iowa's depth could soon become much more valuable is on defense.
The Hawkeyes didn't necessarily need all their depth to get by the likes of UNC-Wilmington and Maryland-Eastern Shore in November. But with Big Ten play approaching, Iowa will try to use its superior numbers to wear opponents out.
That could be an issue for Iowa State, whose rotation isn't much deeper than seven players.
"They run a very good press (defense) to slow you down and they mix up their defenses exceptionally well," Hoiberg said.
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