After losing two of their last three, the Hawks are back in action this Saturday for a 4pm BTN televised rematch with Rutgers. Two weeks ago it took an unbelievable walk-off three pointer from Joe Wieskamp to bury the Scarlet Knights. But, this time around the Hawks are at home for the Senior Day send off of lone 2018-2019 senior Nicholas Baer.
Rutgers will be coming into Carver well rested and confident from a 68-64 win vs. Minnesota on Sunday. The Scarlet Knights average only 67.4ppg on 41.4% shooting. So, a high-scoring Iowa team should win easily, right? Maybe not exactly. Holding Rutgers to their season average may be a tall task considering the Hawks are reeling after allowing an offensively challenged Ohio State team to run up 90 Tuesday night. In fact, on the season the Hawks give up 73.2ppg. That’s a woeful 228th in the NCAA.
Defensively Rutgers is a stout team allowing a modest 68ppg. Just two weeks ago in the first matchup they held the Hawks to 71pts. Therefore, while the Hawks will look to run-up the score in this one, Rutgers will look to keep the game low-scoring like the first matchup. Chances are if the game’s in the 60s, Rutgers will pick up their seventh conference win and get to an even 14-14 on the season. But, if the game is played into the upper 70s or 80s, expect the Hawks to win. The higher the score, the more it favors the Hawks.
In addition to scoring a bunch, for the Hawks to win the guards specifically will need to get buckets. After some research I’ve found that during B10 conference play Iowa’s three starting guards (JoBo, Moss, and Weezy) have averaged 37.4ppg in wins and 28.1 in losses. That’s a surprising 9.3ppg difference. Hence, maybe there’s some truth to the ole cliché ‘guards win games’. For the Hawks, the stats certainly evince that good guard play is a big factor in winning games.
The stats also suggest that free throw shooting could be key, especially if it’s a close game. Iowa leads the country with 18.75 makes per game from the charity stripe, shooting them at a 75% clip. Meanwhile, Rutgers shoots an abysmal 62.7%.
Offensive rebounding and shooting the three will definitely factor into the game too. The Scarlet Knights rely on offensive rebounding. They’re 24th in the country averaging 12.8 offensive rpg but struggle from behind the arc shooting 31.4%, second worst in the conference. Erstwhile, the Hawks are third in the conference shooting 37.1% from three.
Looking at individual players, Geo Baker, Eugene Omoruyi, and Ron Harper Jr. will be the names to know for the Scarlet Knights. You may recall, Geo Baker hit the go-ahead three two weeks ago in the first matchup. If this one comes down to the wire, he could be the one taking a clutch shot again as he rarely ever sits on the bench. Perhaps playing 34mpg is why he’s the Scarlet Knights’ second leader score at 13.1ppg.
Rutgers’ leading scorer, forward Eugene Omoruyi, had a double-double in the first matchup and leads the team with 13.6ppg and 7.6rpg. He’s a bit of a do-it-all type of player similar to Iowa’s Tyler Cook. Omoruyi has a knack for facilitating to his teammates and getting to free throw line. Plus, he can shoot the three too, if need be.
Fellow forward Ron Harper Jr. ought to garner the Hawks attention as well. In the first matchup he led the Scarlet Knights with 16pts, including four treys. Although he averages a meager 6.9ppg, he’s capable of getting hot.
The Hawks will look for the guards to contribute at a high clip once again. In the first matchup Bohannon and Moss combined for 35 with Weezy chipping in an additional 9. So, if Garza continues to find himself in foul trouble as he customarily has recently, the Hawks will surely need their guards to hit some shots to make up for the loss of Garza’s scoring. And not just one guard, but two, or even all three. Simply put, the Hawks do well when their guards do well, regardless of how the bigs play.
When it comes to guard play, prior to the drubbing at Ohio St. JoBo–aka Mr. Ice In His Veins–had been the hot hand. Bohannon scored 14+ in each of the previous five games, but mustered only 8 on Tuesday. In his absence Weezy led the team with 17pts on 5-6 shooting from behind the arc Tuesday night while Moss chipped in just 3pts.
To belabor the point about guard play being the key for the Hawks, for the sake of comparison it’s useful to look at how the Hawks’ guards have faired in recent matchups. In the first outing vs. Rutgers Iowa’s three guards netted 44 of the teams 71pts. That’s 62% of the offense. Meanwhile, in the last outing @ Ohio St. those same three starting guards scored 28 of the teams 70pts. That’s 40% of the offense.
Now, I’m not saying that the Hawks will definitely win if the guards score a bunch. But, I am strongly suggesting that the Hawks will probably win if the guards score a bunch. And if Garza is able to stay out of foul trouble and net his season average of 13ppg, the Hawks could very easily run away with this one.
But, if the Hawks play lax three-point defense as they’re sometimes prone too, they could find themselves with B10 loss number 8. In the two most recent losses (Maryland and Ohio St.) the opponent made 12 threes. The Hawks will certainly have to hold the Scarlet Knights to less than 12 made threes to prevail on Senior Day. It’s tough to prognosticate too much as a basketball game can go a bunch of different ways. But, if Rutgers starts making it rain from long range to the tune of 8+ threes, the Hawks may be in trouble.
And lastly, on the coaching front, the Hawks will be without the head Hawk who was issued a two-game suspension by AD Gary Barta for his explicit comments directed at an official in the aftermath of the Ohio St. game Tuesday night. According to reports, McCaffery allegedly called an official a “cheating (expletive)” and a “(expletive) disgrace.” Assistant Coach Andrew Francis will serve as head coach in McCaffery’s absence.
McCaffery’s suspension comes on the heels of the suspension of longtime play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin for his likening of Maryland star big-man Bruno Fernando to “King Kong” after he netted the game-winning put back against the Hawks on February 19th. (You can listen to the first half of the weekly Hawkeye Heaven podcast here for some excellent insight and discussion of Dolph’s suspension)
However, unlike Dolphin’s controversial suspension that has drawn the ire of many Hawk fans, the McCaffery suspension has been accepted more graciously by the fan base given McCaffery’s track record of angry outbursts (4 four prior incidents: 2011 ejection against UNI, 2012 chair-slamming against Michigan St., 2014 one-game suspension as punishment for an ejection vs. Wisconsin, and last season’s ejection against Maryland).
*All statistics courtesy of espn.com