Franalysis: The Importance of Shooting the Ball Well

By Matthew Lundeen on January 20, 2017 at 9:20 am
A slow start and finish, doom Iowa in a nail-biter at home against Maryland.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa's defense was bad, but offensive struggles also continued to rear their ugly head in Big Ten play.


Four Factors in Review

  Iowa 1st half UM 1st half iowa 2nd half UM 2nd half Iowa Game UM Game
Points Per Possession 0.86 1.10 1.10 1.08 0.98 1.09
Possessions 37 40 77


(Shot chart courtesy of ESPN. Iowa is in black. Makes are filled in.)
Iowa 2pt Near Rim 2pt Jumper 3pt FG FT
Attempts 41.4% 18.6% 40.0% N/A
FG% 51.7% 23.1% 25.0% 76.0%
Maryland 2pt Near Rim 2pt Jumper 3pt FG FT
Attempts 39.6% 17.0% 43.4% N/A
FG% 81.0% 22.2% 47.8% 72.2%

I'm not sure I really need to tell you that this was the most important factor of the game, but this ended up being the most important factor of the game. On offense, for Iowa, the ball just never would go through the damn hoop in a consistent manner, no matter what they did against Maryland.

In the first half, Iowa's half-court offense looked absolutely lost against Maryland's man defense. There wasn't much meaningful action going on, and the Hawkeyes ended up settling for a lot of contested jumpers. 

1st half

Maryland, meanwhile, was busy draining threes and abusing Iowa with ball screens. You can tell just how successful their ball screens were by the amount of shaded circles near the Terrapins basket. Post players who don't usually contribute a whole lot on offense for Maryland -- Damonte Dodd (eight points) and Ivan Bender (six) -- were finding themselves with easy look after easy look, as they rolled to the rim after setting a screen. Somehow, though, despite an awful first half, Iowa found themselves down just nine points at the break, which seemed like a victory.

Then, the second half happened, and things changed, but at the same time they didn't.

2nd half

On offense, the Hawkeyes no longer looked quite as lost, and they started getting the ball inside with much more regularity. The only issue was that their shot wasn't falling much better than it had in the first half. That said, their 44% eFG% after halftime was certainly better than the 37% they shot before halftime. Fortunately, the Hawkeyes hauled in 13 second half offensive rebounds and the increased emphasis on getting the ball in the paint led to 15 free throw attempts. All of that, along with four fewer turnovers than Maryland, allowed Iowa to outscore the Terps 44-43 in the second half.

For Maryland, the second half was different because the well dried up on the inside. Iowa still allowed 14 points in the paint after halftime, but that was improved from the 22 they gave up in the first half. Additionally, four of those 14 points came in the first minute of the second half, when Maryland seemed like they were finally going to start exploiting the Jordan Bohannon on Anthony Cowan mismatch in man-to-man defense. Cowan had two quick layups after the break, and Fran decided that Iowa couldn't afford to stay in man defense if they were going to have any shot at winning the game. He settled on the 1-2-2 (or 3-2) zone for the rest of the game, and it paid dividends for most of the second half. 

Maryland was actually under one point per possession (PPP) for the majority of the second half, which allowed Iowa to eventually tie the game and actually take a 67-66 lead with five minutes remaining. Unfortunately, Maryland responded with some timely three-point shooting (their three-point shooting was actually pretty timely all game, considering they made 11 of 23), and they outscored Iowa 17-10 for the remainder of the game, allowing the Terps to not only make it over that one PPP threshold for the second half, but to also win the game. 

Advantage: Maryland


  Turnovers Turnover% Steals %of Turnovers Forced by Steals Points Off Turnovers Pts Off Turnovers Per Turnover Forced
Iowa 16 20.7% 14 66.7% 30 1.43
Maryland 21 27.2% 14 87.5% 19 1.19

With the shooting battle really not going Iowa's way, they needed a lot of help from the other three factors and they certainly got it. Iowa turned the ball over too much themselves, but it wasn't quite as bad as Maryland, who gave the ball up on more than a quarter of their possessions. But the Hawkeyes didn't just win the quantity battle, they also won the quality battle, as they scored 30 points off of those 21 empty Terrapin possessions. 21 of those 30 points off turnovers came in the second half for Iowa, which was a big part of why they were able to stick in this game, and even take a brief lead. 

With all that positivity out of the way, though, I would be remiss not to mention Iowa's turnover problems that popped up at the end of the game again. After Melo Trimble tied the game at 72 with three minutes left, the Hawkeyes went on to turn the ball over four times to Maryland's one down the stretch. An empty possession ratio of 4:1 at the end of the game is certainly not a recipe for successfully closing out a basketball game.

So Iowa won this category, overall. However, Maryland won it down the stretch, when it really counted.  

Advantage: Iowa

Offensive Rebounding

  Off. Rebounds Available Off. Rebounds Off. Rebound% 2nd Chance Points 2nd Chance pts/Off. Rebound
Iowa 20 51* 39.2% 19 0.95
Maryland 6 26 23.1% 7 1.17

*Holy crap is that a lot of missed shots. 

The Hawkeyes absolutely crashed the glass in this one, and it was another big reason why they were able to stick around in this game, despite some really awful shooting. Maryland came into the game below average in offensive rebounding in conference play, but Iowa did them absolutely dirty last night. Tyler Cook (six) and Ahmad Wagner (five) were an especially efficient duo when it came to offensive boards and second chance points -- particularly after halftime. 

The best way I can think of to explain the importance of this category is to tell you that through their offensive rebounding and turnover advantage, Iowa created 20 more scoring opportunities (FGA+0.475 x FTA) for themselves than did Maryland. That's right, Iowa had a whopping 82 scoring opportunities, while Maryland had just 62. But that just goes to show that when you are getting nearly doubled up on shooting percentage for most of the game, it takes about 20 extra scoring attempts to keep you in a game. Ultimately, though, Iowa learned it's really hard to win a game when the shooting disparity is so wide.

Advantage: Iowa

Free Throw Rate

  FT Made FT Attempted FT% FT Rate (FTA/FGA)
Iowa 19 25 76.0% 35.7%
Maryland 13 18 72.2% 34.0%

On the one hand, this category was important for an Iowa team that was struggling to put the ball through the cylinder from the field. Maryland had only been allowing a free throw rate of 24% in Big Ten play before last night, so Iowa's 36% was very good. 18 of those free throws were taken by Cook, Wagner, and Cordell Pemsl and Iowa's iffy free throw shooting trio actually made 15 of them. So this area was definitely a success on offense.

On defense, though, it was less so. The Hawkeyes were allowing the Big Ten's best 22% free throw rate coming into this one, so Maryland's 34% ended up being a big deal in such a close game. Considering how much better Maryland was shooting from the field, Iowa could have really used more trips to the free throw line. In other words, the Hawkeyes won this factor, but not by nearly enough.

Advantage: Iowa

Overall: Iowa Won 3 of 4 Factors (Shooting is important, you guys)



Individually, Ahmad Wagner was the best player for the Hawkeyes, and actually the best in the entire game, according to adjusted game score per minute. His impact on the game was limited, due to playing just 15 minutes, but he certainly made the most of the minutes he did get. In his time on the court, Wagner gave Iowa 12 points on 3-5 shooting from the floor and 6-8 shooting from the line. He also produced six rebounds (five offensive), two assists, and one steal. Most of his damage was done in the second half, where he scored 10 of his 12 points and grabbed five of his six rebounds. His outstanding performance was also very timely, seeing how Ryan Kriener was actually the first big man off the bench in this game, suggesting that the true freshman may have passed Wagner on the rotation totem pole. With his performance in this one, though, Wagner may have given Fran some more to think about. 

Nicholas Baer was Iowa's second best player in this game, according to adjusted game score per minute. Per usual, Baer had just seven points, but he did all the other important non-scoring things that makes him so invaluable. He stuffed his final stat line with five rebounds (three offensive), four assists, two blocks, and two steals. He also played 30 minutes, despite coming off the bench. He just does so many little things when he's on the court, it's really hard to take him off it anymore.

Tyler Cook is down the adjusted game score per minute list a bit, but I think he was one of Iowa's most valuable players in this one. He shot just 1-6 from the field and had four turnovers, which certainly doesn't seem like a great performance. However, despite his inability to finish at the rim (he was 1-5 from up close), he still finished with eight points thanks to some very good shooting from the free throw line. He was also Iowa's leading rebounder, hauling in seven boards (six offensive) in just 20 minutes of play. His impact on the game was felt mostly in the second half, where six of his seven second half points were second chance ones. 

Fear not, though, as his lone basket on the night was a dunk, meaning he still has just one dunkless game this season. 

Tyler Cook Dunk-o-meter Games dunks made field goals dunk rate projected season total
Tyler Cook 12 24 60 40.0% 50 (25 Games)
Freshman Year Aaron White 12 9 38 23.7% 32

Jordan Bohannon played 38 of the 40 available minutes in this one, scoring 11 points on a less-than-efficient four of 14 shooting (3-11 from downtown), and handing out five assists to three turnovers. Like I talked about in the preview, Fran opted to put Bohannon on Cowan when Iowa was in their man defense, hoping that the Maryland offense would still run through Trimble, who would hopefully hero ball Iowa to victory. The latter part didn't happen, of course, but Iowa still almost won the game, nonetheless.

In man defense, Bohannon did struggle to keep Cowan in front of him, as Maryland's future star scored 10 of his 15 total points via a combination of points at the rim and from the free throw line, that came via him being fouled while attacking the basket. As I mentioned earlier, Iowa switched to their 1-2-2 zone for the remainder of the game, after Cowan burned Bohannon twice to start the second half. And, fortunately, the zone did a much better job of keeping Maryland out of the lane. It also allowed Bohannon to tally four second half steals.

Lastly, the biggest piece missing from this game was the impact of Peter Jok. Iowa's star is clearly suffering from some injuries, based on the treatment he's receiving on the bench, but how much of his recent struggles are to blame on injuries and how much are to just blame on a slump/really good opposing team defense isn't exactly easy to determine. Either way, Iowa needs good Peter Jok back because it's hard for them to win games when his shot chart looks like this:


He still managed 14 points on 14 scoring attempts (which is actually a lot more efficient than his performance felt), but he scored just two points in the second half. He did hand out a few nice assists, but two second half points just isn't enough. 

And that brings me to the overall team performance as of late. Iowa has fallen from #71 to #89 in Kenpom's rankings over the last two games, which puts the Hawkeyes ahead of only Rutgers in the Big Ten. Even keeping in mind the low expectations we have of this team, considering how young they are, that is still pretty depressing. 

So what's wrong with the team right now? And can they get better?

Well, to answer question number two first: yes, they can get better. As for question number one, the offense is the big problem right now.

Of course, we can all point fingers at the defensive side of the ball, and I most certainly agree that it is pretty atrocious right now. But that's been an issue all season long, and while the team can certainly improve a bit over the remainder of the season, there are also some personnel issues that aren't going away this season. Most notably, Jordan Bohannon is a liability when he has to defend an attacking guard one-on-one, and his help defense is also leaving a lot to be desired right now. Those things will hopefully improve a little next year, as Bohannon will have another year of experience under his belt, and that will hopefully give the team time to gel together as a cohesive unit on defense. Not to mention, the addition of Luka Garza (depending on how much playing time he sees in a currently crowded rotation) could be huge over the next few years if he can be the rim protector this team lacks right now. But that is still pretty far out. 

Instead, as things currently stand, the recent struggles on offense are why this team has fallen lately. Over their last four contests, the Purdue game is the only one in which the offense has scored more than one PPP in a game. And considering only one of those games has been on the road, that's pretty concerning. Individually, here are some of the issues Iowa has had in conference play:

  • Peter Jok is shooting just 33% on his threes and turning the ball over a little more. (He is handing out a few more assists, though.)
  • Tyler Cook is shooting just 49% on his two-pointers, while Cordell Pemsl is making just 44% of his and turning the ball over at a high rate.
  • Isaiah Moss is shooting just 48% on his twos, but even more importantly, is making just 29% of his threes.
  • Jordan Bohannon -- while having cut his turnovers down to a more respectable level for a freshman point guard -- is connecting on just 32% of his threes.

As a whole, Iowa's shooting the ball worse because their four best scorers are all struggling from the field and turnovers -- particularly at the end of the game -- have proven to be an issue in Big Ten play, despite them being right around the national average. 

I don't know if this will continue to happen. It's likely a combination of an injured Peter Jok, coupled with Iowa's freshmen adjusting to the rigors of playing multiple nights per week against Big Ten competition. How long it lasts, I have no clue. But in order for this team to improve, it's likely going to take the offense to carry them, because I don't really see much drastic improvement on defense coming until at least next season. So if Iowa can't outscore their opponents, they simply won't win. 

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