College Basketball is played, and seasons come and pass, leaving players and moments that become memories. Memories soon fade to legends and even the legends can be forgotten as new seasons bring more players and moments. In one season, called the new season by some, a season mostly to come, a season partly past, a young Iowa team played Florida Atlantic in its opener. The opener was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to College Basketball. But it was a beginning.
Bonus points to the first person who can tell me what inspired the above paragraph. Anyway, Iowa played Florida Atlantic in its season opener. There were good moments and bad moments, moments of promise and moments of despair, but Iowa ultimately came away victorious 85-53. Let’s take a look at what happened:
Iowa started off this game poorly. Really poorly. Like time to hit the panic button and start rethinking some decisions poorly. The Hawks led 19-15 at the end of the first quarter, and 38-29 at halftime.
Now, having a lead in the first and second quarters usually isn’t a bad thing, even against bad opponents. But in this case, Iowa was playing a low major opponent coming off a 5-25 season. And the Hawkeyes looked absolutely terrible for much of the opening twenty minutes.
There were two primary culprits—turnovers and a lack of offensive execution. Iowa had 13 turnovers in the first half. I’ll have more on that below, but suffice to say most of them were unnecessary mistakes instead of high-risk gambles that didn’t pay off. As for execution, Iowa rarely got into fast break situations and struggled mightily in the half court.
The first part of the third quarter was similar, before Iowa’s tempo and Florida Atlantic foul trouble turned the tide. Iowa led 58-44 at the end of the third quarter, then won the 4th quarter 28-9 to secure what will go down as a lopsided victory. It was anything but for much of the game.
Kathleen Doyle led Iowa with 15 points (including the 1,000th of her career), 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, though she also had 6 turnovers. Monika Czinano had 14 points on 3-4 shooting from the floor, but she, too, coughed the ball up 4 times. Alexis Sevillian was the final veteran player in double figures with 12. A box score for the game is here.
I’ve talked about this some in past seasons, but there are two types of turnovers: 1) bad turnovers, and 2) risk-reward turnovers. A bad turnover is one that occurs while doing something that doesn’t significantly increase your team’s chance of scoring. A risk-reward turnover is an action that might result in a turnover if it fails, but that can result in a great look if it succeeds.
Teams can tolerate risk-reward turnovers (assuming the team isn’t trying to thread needles on every possession), but too many bad turnovers can sink an offense. Bad turnovers prevent the team from getting good shots while often giving the opponent a prime scoring opportunity.
Last year’s Iowa team was good at limiting bad turnovers and executing the risk-reward plays. That helped get plenty of good looks for Megan Gustafson, and led to many a fast break bucket.
Iowa tonight was stumbling all over itself with bad turnovers. Traveling was the main culprit, but there were plenty of rushed and unnecessarily long outlet passes, sprinkled with the occasional drop on a slightly low pass. Against Florida Atlantic, Iowa got away with them. Against a Big Ten opponent, they won’t.
Up above, I mentioned there were positive takeaways from this game, and there were. Though Florida Atlantic is not a strong opponent, Iowa forced them into plenty of bad shots defensively, and won the rebounding battle by 12.
Iowa’s high tempo also paid dividends in the second half, when Florida Atlantic ran out of gas and Iowa was able to get good shot after good shot.
Finally, Iowa’s freshman looked promising.
Gabbie Marshall might be the best shooter on Iowa’s team already. The freshman point guard doesn’t have the quickest release, but her shot is pure, with no noticeable hitch or weird follow-through. Because of that, her shot is easy to repeat and less likely to be off because of form. Some players (like Makenzie Meyer and Alexis Sevillian) have less repeatable shots, and you can tell almost from the time their shots leave their hands whether it will go in. With Marshall the shot is almost always either close or in.
Marshall went 3-4 from three tonight, and scored 11 points total. She struggled in other areas, such as drawing two fouls early, but her offensive potential is something to be excited about.
McKenna Warnock had a similarly promising start. In only 15 minutes, Warnock scored 10 points on 2-3 shooting and 6-7 from the free throw line. She also grabbed 10 rebounds to secure her first collegiate double-double. Like Marshall, she also struggled a little with fouls, but that shouldn’t dampen what was a very good debut. Ideally, Warnock will get more minutes going forward. Her combination of size, athleticism, and scoring is something no other Iowa player can offer.
Kate Martin led the Iowa freshman in minutes, though she had a bit of an off night with only 4 points and 4 rebounds. I expect she’ll improve as the year goes on.
Finally, Megan Meyer only got three and a half minutes of playing time, but in that time she splashed in her first college three-pointer. It’s Megan 1, Makenzie 0 in the battle of which Meyer sister will make more threes this year.
Per the broadcasting team, the NCAA instructed officials to focus more heavily on traveling and fouls this season. The concept of “focusing” on particular rules is a strange one to me. All rules are on the books for a reason. It’s one thing to speak with officials if you think they’re not interpreting a rule right. It’s another to suggest that more infractions of the rule be called.
If you’re going to pick focus rules, however, I suggest not picking fouls and traveling. Fouls and traveling in basketball are like holding in football. If you look close enough, you could find it on every play/possession.
And damn if the officials didn’t try tonight. The teams combined for 49 turnovers, and at least half of them were travels. On top of that, 53 fouls were called in the game, and they resulted in 66 free throw attempts. Iowa happened to shoot 31-40 from the line, which helped the struggling offense, but that many stoppages made the game drag along. If the NCAA wants to improve its product, it should remove the focus on fouls and traveling. The fans are begging you.
Iowa returns to action next Thursday, November 14 against North Alabama at 6:30 PM Central at Carver Hawkeye Arena. The game will be streamed on BTN Plus.