After a much needed six day hiatus, the Iowa Hawkeyes (19-5, 8-5) will be back on the floor Saturday at Rutgers (12-12, 5-9) in search of their fourth consecutive victory. The Scarlet Knights, who had lost their three previous, will be fresh off the heels of a nice win at Northwestern Thursday.
The 21st ranked Hawkeyes have been riding high in the month of February, starting the month 3-0, recording some of their best wins of the season to date. First they knocked off 5th ranked Michigan on February 1st, then won at Indiana on February 7th and on February 10th they pulled off an improbable comeback to beat Northwestern. What’s been most impressive about the current streak is the fact that usual contributors, Luka Garza (13.8 ppg) and Isaiah Moss (9.6 ppg) have been pretty quiet in the scoring column. Moss did score 15 points in the win versus Northwestern, but was 0 of 11 shooting, with 0 points, in the two previous games. Garza has been saddled with early fouls in each of the last two contests, playing a total of 30 minutes and scoring a mere 4 points on 1 of 8 shooting. Nevertheless, in the absence of Garza and Moss’ scoring, the trio of Jordan Bohannon, Joe Wieskamp and Tyler Cook have more than filled the void. Bohannon has averaged 16.0 ppg the past three games, including a scorching 10 of 16 (63%) from distance. Wieskamp is scoring 13.3 ppg in the last three and has made 8 of 14 (57%) triples. Cook, the consummate workaholic, has been his usual self and more, netting 20.0 ppg. in the past two contests, making 14 of his 30 field goals. The threesome has combined to score 58% of the teams points during the current three game stretch, compared to the 48% they usually contribute.
In order to keep the streak alive the Hawks must not look past Rutgers. Although the Hawks are 5-1 all time versus the Knights; the one loss came last year in Piscataway. In last season’s loss Rutgers was able to get out to a fast start and cruise to an 80-64 win. In the loss, Jordan Bohannon hit 5 of 9 three-point attempts scoring a game high 23 points. However, the Hawkeyes committed 17 turnovers and only shot 39% from the field; Rutgers, contrarily, shot 54%.
The Scarlet Knights have a 9-5 record at home this year, 3-4 in Big Ten play. Rutgers is last in the conference in scoring average netting 67.6 ppg. They have struggled shooting the ball this season, connecting on 41.2% of their field goals, and only 31.4% of their three-point attempts. They have also had their problems at the free throw line, shooting a league low 63.1%. Rutgers is also towards the bottom of the Big Ten in turnovers per game (9th, 13.2) and defensive average (10th, 68.5 ppg.). The Knights are led in scoring by Eugene Omoruyi (6-7, 234). The junior is putting in 14.0 ppg. Sophomore guard, Geo Baker (6-4, 180) joins him in double figures, contributing 13.0 ppg. Baker was integral in last year’s game, finishing with 17 points, including a 3 of 5 performance from three. Rutgers also gets positive contributions from a pair of freshmen, Montez Mathis (6-4, 200) and Ron Harper Jr. (6-6, 230). The young duo is dropping in 8.8 and 6.5 points per game respectively.
On paper, the Hawkeyes look to be a mismatch for the Knights, but like the cliche says, games are not played on paper. Rutgers has had some bright moments this season, including knocking off (then 16th ranked) Ohio State at the RAC in January, and like any other team in the Big Ten, they are no gimme. Keys to the Hawks continuing their winning ways: get out to a fast start, establish defensive intensity early and put some distance on the scoreboard by halftime. Also, Luka Garza needs to establish himself early and often, as does Tyler Cook, the Knights do not match-up well with the post duo.
The game will tip at 5:00 PM on FS1.
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