Franalysis: Good Defense and Few Turnovers Leads to Easy Win For Iowa

By Matthew Lundeen on January 24, 2018 at 1:00 pm
As it turns out, Iowa is actually pretty good when they play defense and aren't turning the ball over.
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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As it turns out, Iowa is actually pretty good when they play defense and aren't turning the ball over.

points

Four Factors in Review

  Iowa 1st Half Wisconsin 1st Half Iowa 2nd Half Wisconsin 2nd Half Iowa Game Wisconsin Game
Points Per Possession 1.13 0.86 1.23 1.00 1.19 0.94
Possessions 33 39 72

Shooting

Iowa 2PT Near Rim 2PT Jumper 3PT FG FT
Attempts 43.3% 26.7% 30.0% N/A
FG% 84.6% 18.8% 33.3% 77.3%
Wisconsin 2PT Near Rim 2PT Jumper 3PT FG FT
Attempts 52.3% 20.0% 27.7% N/A
FG% 61.8% 7.7% 22.2% 78.6%

Shooting was the most important category in this one, as Iowa outshot the Badgers from the whistle. Yet, despite the welcome sight of Isaiah Moss shooting 3-4 from outside on the night, Iowa actually didn't shoot the three ball all that well, as Jordan Bohannon and Nicholas Baer combined for a 2-12 showing from deep. However, that didn't hurt Iowa any on offense because the team was able to get it done inside the paint. Tyler Cook and Luka Garza combined for 26 of Iowa's 44 points inside the painted area, while Bohannon and Moss also attacked the basket quite a bit themselves. And Iowa's persistent effort at getting the ball inside paid off, as they shot 86% at the rim and got to the free throw line 22 times. 

But while Iowa's offense was strong in both halves, the bigger story was their defense. After putting together one of the absolute worst statistical games (mostly that first half) that I've ever logged in a spreadsheet on Saturday against Purdue, the Hawkeyes came out with their most complete defensive effort against a team with an actual pulse this season. Wisconsin isn't very good this year, of course, but neither is Rutgers and they absolutely embarrassed Iowa's defense last week. Really, any good defensive showing is worth celebrating at this point.

The first half of this game saw Iowa absolutely shut down Wisconsin star, Ethan Happ, to the tune of four points on 2-6 shooting. Luka Garza deserves a ton of credit for taking Happ out of the game early. He did an excellent job of fronting and forcing him to catch the ball a good distance out from the rim. And when Happ was able to get looks in the paint, they were usually contested by Garza's long arms. Khalil Iverson did his best to keep the Badgers in the game with 13, but Iowa still held Wisconsin to 0.86 PPP in the first 20 minutes of the game. 

Happ wouldn't be stopped so easily in the second half, though, and his offensive game came around to the tune of 17 points, but his defensive game was far less excellent. Not only did Wisconsin's best player foul out, but he was less than pleased with his own defensive effort. 

But even with Happ going off for 17 in the second half, Iowa still held Wisconsin to just a point per trip after the intermission. Iverson cooled off quite a bit and only scored four in the second half, and neither Brad Davison nor Brevin Pritzl could get it going from three-point range in either half (they were 3-12 from out there) to help make the Badgers more than just a one-man show the entire game.

Advantage: Iowa

Turnovers

Team Turnovers Turnover% Steals % of Turnovers Forced by Steals Points Off Turnovers Pts Off Turnovers Per Turnover Forced
Iowa 11 15.4% 7 70.0% 14 1.40
Wisconsin 10 14.0% 7 63.6% 14 1.27

Outside of Ethan Happ and his freakish ability to poke the ball away, Wisconsin isn't a turnover-creating team, so it's not exactly surprising that Iowa didn't struggle all that much in this area last night. On the flip side, it was nice to see the Hawkeyes actually forcing some turnovers with their aggressive defensive last night. Guys were actually in the passing lanes and poking the ball away and using that to get out on the break. And you know what? Iowa didn't get outscored on points off turnovers for once. That's literally the first time in conference play that hasn't happened this year, and the first time since Iowa pounded lowly Northern Illinois back on December 29th. 

Just like it was nice to see what happens when this Iowa team plays defense for an entire game, it was also nice to see what happens when they don't turn the ball over. They were successful in both areas, and they won in very comfortable fashion.

Advantage: Push

Offensive Rebounding

Team Off. Rebounds Available Off. Rebounds Off. Rebound% 2nd Chance Points 2nd Chance Pts/Off. Rebound
Iowa 10 32 31.3% 12 1.20
Wisconsin 10 41 24.4% 4 0.40

This was your classic example of why rebounding percentage is superior to raw rebounding totals. Both teams had 10 offensive rebounds, but Iowa did so on nine fewer opportunities than Wisconsin. Iowa also took advantage of their second chance opportunities better than their opponent, outscoring them 12-4 off of missed shots. Luka Garza scored six of Iowa's second chance points off his four offensive rebounds in this one. Iowa's big freshman also did his part on the defensive glass, where he secured 12 defensive rebounds, single-handedly out-rebounding Wisconsin on that end of the court.  

Really, the shooting disparity was more than enough for Iowa to win this one with ease. The rebounding and second chance points were just a cherry on top.

Advantage: Iowa

Free Throws

Team FT Made FT Attempted FT% FT Rate (FTA/FGA)
Iowa 17 22 77.3% 36.7%
Wisconsin 11 14 78.6% 21.5%

As a team, Wisconsin is actually good at avoiding fouling and not allowing their opponents to live at the free throw line. That wasn't the case on Tuesday night, however. Iowa's strategy of pounding it in the paint proved very effective at not just racking up points at the rim, but it also proved effective at earning free trips to the line. Out of Iowa's 22 free throws attempted, Cordell Pemsl and Luka Garza took 14 of them, and made an impressive 11. 

Just as important, Iowa's big men stayed out of foul trouble against Ethan Happ (fifth in the Big Ten in fouls drawn per 40 minutes), which gave them the edge in this category, thanks to sheer volume of free throws. 

Advantage: Iowa

Overall: Iowa Won 3 of 4 Factors

Players

Individually, Luka Garza was Iowa's top-rated player in this one, and I don't think too many will argue with that. 17 points and 16 rebounds in a Big Ten game is damn impressive, no matter who the opponent is. And this performance didn't come out of the blue; Garza has been playing great lately.

After Iowa's loss to Michigan a few weeks back, I looked at each player's performance against legitimate competition and Luka Garza had the biggest drop off from his overall offensive efficiency to his offensive efficiency against good teams. Well, I have some good news: Garza has improved dramatically on offense against actual competition over the past three weeks.

Back on January 3rd, Garza sported a 75.3 offensive efficiency against Kenpom's Tier A and B teams. As of today, he's up to 109.3 against those same teams, including a 127.3 offensive efficiency in conference play. (That's sixth-best in the Big Ten among qualified players.) Garza now has four-straight games with an offensive efficiency rating at 100 or above, and has done so in five of his last six games. On top of that, he's not turning the ball over and he's got the second-highest offensive rebounding percentage in conference play. Toss in the fact that he's 8th in Big Ten play at fouls drawn per 40 minutes and that he's making 73% of his free throws against Big Ten teams, and he's playing like he wants to make the Big Ten All-Freshman Team. (Dan Dakich would certainly vote for him.)

Outside of the excellent play by Garza, Tyler Cook was also amazing. Wisconsin had nobody that could match his unguardable combination of size and burst. Cook frequently exploded to the rim as soon as he caught the ball to avoid the double team. And it worked. He only played 24 minutes due to rolling his ankle, but that's all he needed to pour in 17 points and two more dunks:

Tyler Cook Dunk-o-meter Games Dunks Dunks Per Game Made field goals Dunk Rate Estimated Season Total
Sophomore Year Tyler Cook 22 40 1.8 119 33.6% 56 (31 Games)
Sophomore Year Aaron White 38 56 1.5 140 40.0% 56
Tyler Cook Career 49 88 1.8 247 35.6% N/A
Aaron White Career 140 201 1.4 590 34.1% N/A

That pick-and-roll alley-oop from Moss to Cook also reminded me of this one from Josh Oglesby to Gabe Olaseni back in 2014. 

Back to 2018, Jordan Bohannon was also fantastic for Iowa against the Badgers in this one. He struggled with his outside shot (1-6 on the night), but he made up for it by getting to the rim and finishing more. (He's been better at hitting that little floater in traffic.) He also finished with his second double-double of the year, adding 11 assists (only two turnovers) to his 13 points. 

The fourth starter with double-digit points was Isaiah Moss, who gave Bohannon some help in the back court for once. The inconsistency of Moss on both sides of the floor has been disconcerting this year, but this is the type of player that we know he can be. He wasn't very efficient inside the arc (2-8 on the night), but he made up for it by going 3-4 from downtown. He also scored Iowa's final five points of the first half to help fight off a Wisconsin run and give Iowa a nine-point lead going into the locker room. And on defense he looked much better, as he frequently had his hands in the passing lane and came away with three steals, as a result. Let's hope that he can start to find his way as the season comes to a close.

Finally, Cordell Pemsl was Iowa's bench last night. He scored 11 of Iowa's 18 non-starter points, mostly by getting to the free throw line eight times and making seven of them. With Ryan Kriener out due to a concussion, Pemsl took advantage of a shorter rotation, logging 29 minutes and reminding us how efficient he can be on any given night. He did have three turnovers, though, and turnovers have been a huge problem for him in Big Ten play. Still, it was good to see him get some extra minutes and actually do something with them. 

In total, this was Iowa's best performance from start to finish all season against a team that actually cracks Kenpom's Top 100. Iowa played defense and limited the turnovers, and what do you know, they won by 18 points. The real question is: how much of this was actual improvement and how much of this was just a one-game aberration against a team the Hawkeyes just happened to match up with really well? 

Because for as fun as last night was, Wisconsin also had nobody who could attack Iowa's biggest weakness: dribble-penetration on the perimeter. The Badgers have no real point guard right now and Iowa was able to take advantage of that. Khalil Iverson was the closest Wisconsin had to a penetrating guard, and he was a one-man show for a little while in the first half (especially when Jack Nunge was in the game). Outside of Iverson, Iowa didn't have to worry too much about their man breaking them down off the dribble and opening up shots for the rest of the team. So while Iowa played excellent defense last night and I don't want to take anything away from them, I will be curious to see how it carries over against quicker guards like Glynn Watson Jr. and Nate Mason in the next few games. 

Still, Iowa beat Wisconsin. They beat them soundly, and it was very enjoyable to watch. And anytime they can do that in a season, I am absolutely elated. Hopefully this game can create some positive momentum for the Hawks as they enter a potentially winnable stretch of basketball. 

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