There is no question that a sweep of anyone in this conference is big this year. Just look at our own 4-2 Big Ten mark right now. Yes, we're in second place, but we're the only team that has beaten the first place team and the only team (winning by 15) that has lost to the last place team (losing by 20). On paper, this was our easiest game for quite some time, and even then, it was a battle until we woke up in the second half.
But it was a win. That's really all that matters the rest of the way. We have to find ways to get wins in any way possible against anyone. With a sweep of the Hawkeyes now in our back pocket I am perfectly fine with them causing some havoc the rest of the way and raising their RPI. Every little bit helps.
I think what we saw tonight was a prime example of our team's resolve. The first half was rather ugly once again. We were bruised and beaten up, allowing Roy Devyn Marble to drive and will and Zach McCabe to hit from outside with impunity. With about three minutes left we were down 11 on our home floor and, in reality, our NCAA chances were possibly taking a major hit at that point. Think about it: If we lose this one, it is two in a row with a brutal stretch ahead. Things can go from bad to catastrophic in a hurry. Just ask Minnesota last year.
We woke up to close the half on an 8-2 run, and then we got back to playing the type of basketball we must play at all times. This team does not have the star power it has had in the past. We need EVERYONE on the floor contributing and moving on both ends of the floor. We did that in the second half by ratcheting up the defense and getting more aggressive on the glass. Let's look at some of the major positives:
- We won the rebounding battle 37-28, mostly because the refs decided Melsahn Basabe wasn't allowed to play tonight.
- We were ruthless on the offensive glass, winning that 14-6. Kelsey Barlow (5) Anthony Johnson (3) and Travis Carroll (3) were very big here.
- Travis Carroll continued his improvement with eight very big points, five rebounds, and he was open and rolling off screens for potential baskets all night.
- WE HIT OUT FREE THROWS!!!! - Okay, 25 of 35 isn't setting the world on fire, but that is above the magical 70% mark. LewJack (8 of 11), Robbie Hummel (6 of 7) did most of the work, but Carroll and Terone Johnson were a combined 4 of 6 after starting the season 3 of 2,038,541 (approximate).
- We laid off the three pointers (4 of 15) and, get this, ACTUALLY ATTACKED THE DAMN BASKET!!!!! TJ, Barlow, Carroll, LewJack, and Robbie all ruthlessly went toward the basket and it magically it paid off.
Most importantly, we shared the scoring. Five guys were in double figures with Rob, TJ, LewJack, Ryno, and GDB all getting over 10 points. Carroll would have had 10 too if we had dumped the ball to him off of a number of screens where he rolled to the basket while wide open. Sharing the ball is imperative in our offense. Again, we don't have JJ or E'Twaun there to hit a big basket. Everyone has to get involved, move, get open, and be ready to score if they get a chance. That is why it is called the Motion Offense. It's not the "Stand Around And Shoot Jumpers Offense". If you're standing around without the ball you don't want to play. Even middle school teams teach that.
That balance was huge tonight because it seemed like everyone had big stretches to share the load. First, it was GDB with seven early points. Then, Ryne Smith hit a few big threes. Rob took over for a stretch of the second half as we pushed ahead, then it was TJ's turn. Finally, Carroll even had a nice two minute stretch with a pair of baskets, including a fortuitous tip-in that pushed a three-point lead to five.
That play was all hustle by TC, something he has demonstrated in recent games and I was able to encourage him with when I met him on the concourse Saturday night. Without that tip-in, Iowa has the ball down 56-53 with a chance to tie. TC hit it, got another nice lay-in on the next possession, and the lead was pushed back to 7. They wouldn't get closer than five the rest of the way.
So let's enjoy this one for a few days. We could be tied for first in the loss column in 48 hours (because as crazy as this season has been do you really consider Illinois a lock at Penn State on Thursday?). We get an angry Michigan State team next that has dropped a pair of road games in a row and will be looking to right things on Saturday.
That game will be like most of the rest of the games this year. As we have shown, we can beat anyone when things are clicking, but when they aren't we can lose to a team like Penn State by 20. We know what we need to do to have success. It is pretty apparent after 19 games that we need to attack he basket, not get stagnant, and play relentless defense. Now we need to do it.
One game at a time.