By RossWB on November 18, 2021 at 4:09 pm
go hawks go
© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK
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WHO: Alabama State Hornets (0-4)
WHEN: 6:00 PM CT (Thursday, November 18)
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, IA)
TV: BTN (Kevin Kugler, Jess Settles)
RADIO: Hawkeye Radio Network (TuneIn, or local listings) | SiriusXM Ch. 195
MOBILE: Fox Sports app 
TWITTER: @IowaHoops | @IowaAwesome | @IowaOnBTN
LINE: Iowa -27.5 (TOTAL: 152.0) 
KENPOM: Iowa -31 (Iowa 99.7% win probability)

NOTE: Don't forget to follow all the action during the game and chat with your fellow Iowa fans in the Go Iowa Awesome discord! (More info here.)

Iowa's cupcake tour through the early portion of the schedule hit a snag on Tuesday, as NC Central, a 29-point Vegas underdog and a team coming off a 39-point loss to Memphis, hung tight with Iowa for much of the game and actually had things tied up in the second half. Iowa closed the game well and ended up winning by 17, but still -- that game was far from a stroll in the park. 

Will tonight's game with Alabama State feature a return trip to routsville or will it be another uncomfortably close affair? The Hornets are 0-4 on the season, but they've had a few close calls so far this year; they had a narrow 5-point loss to Western Kentucky in their season opener and just lost an 8-point game to Iowa State on Tuesday night. The Hornets was down just four at half and after trailing by 14 at one point in the second half, they cut the lead to single digits near the end of the game. So Iowa probably shouldn't look past them (as if they should be looking past anyone after the NC Central game). 

Like the Eagles on Tuesday, the Hornets have a terrible offensive efficiency rating -- 85.0, 354th nationally. Their offense doesn't get a lot of offensive rebounds (215th nationally) or get to the free throw line a lot (275th nationally), but what really drags it down is the fact that they turn the ball over a lot. Like on 28.2% of their possessions a lot, which ranks 345th nationally. 13.4% of their possessions end in steals and another 14.7% end in non-steal turnovers; that is some sloppy-ass ball-handling. When they do actually shoot the ball, Alabama State is posting a 50% eFG, while making 51.9% of their 2-point shots (118th) and 30.7% of their 3-point shots (212th).

On defense, Alabama State is only allowing teams to shoot an effective field goal rate of 46.6% (120th), including an icy 23.7% (38th nationally) from 3-point range. Iowa  couldn't buy a 3-pointer against NC Central the other night, but they might not find it much easier tonight against the Hornets. (Iowa State shot 1/20 from 3-point range against ASU.) But Alabama State is only 248th in defensive efficiency, mainly because they don't force a lot of turnovers (234th) and allow teams to get a lot of offensive rebounds (284th) and get to the free throw line a lot (274th). They've also been allowing teams to make a lot of 2-point shots (53%). Which is a long-winded way of saying this could be another big game for Keegan Murray. 

Alabama State is another guard-oriented team, led by Isaiah Range, Juan Reyna, and Kenny Strawbridge. Range is averaging 10.8 ppg on 45% shooting, while also grabbing a team-high 5.8 rpg; Reyna is averaging 25.0 ppg on 44.8% shooting (including 43% from 3-point range); Strawbridge is posting 8.3 ppg on 41% shooting, plus a team-high 2.3 apg. Forward/wing Trace Young is averaging a team-high 11.0 ppg on 42% shooting as well as 4.8 rpg. Their fifth main contributor, Jordan O'Neal, averaging 9.8 ppg on 69% shooting and 4.8 rpg, is ostensibly one of their bigs, though at 6'7", 197 lbs, he's not that big. In fact, no one in ASU's regular rotation is taller than 6'8". 

Iowa overcame poor 3-point shooting against North Carolina Central by getting to the the free throw line early and often and converting a very high percentage of those free throws. On paper, it looks like a similar approach could work against Alabama State as well, given that they've been getting dinged for fouls quite often this year. Free throws were a key factor in Iowa State's win over them; the Cyclones shot 15/19 at the free throw line, better than ASU's 6/12 showing at the line. But hopefully Iowa displays some sharper defensive instincts than they did on Tuesday; if they can do that, they should be able to lock away a win sooner than they did in that game. 

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