Could defense be Hawkeyes' Achilles' heel in tournament?

Could defense be Hawkeyes' Achilles' heel in tournament?
February 26, 2014, 12:00 pm
Share This Post
Vinnie Duber

Iowa can score.

The Hawkeyes can really score. They’re averaging 83.5 points per game, which is far and away the most in the Big Ten. They’re the sixth highest-scoring team in the country.

But that didn’t help them Tuesday night in the Twin Cities.

Iowa lost to Minnesota in a very high-scoring affair, 95-89. But it wasn’t a lack of offense that let the Hawkeyes down — heck, they scored nearly six points more than their already sky-high average. It’s the defense that broke down for Fran McCaffery’s crew, and it’s not the first time that’s happened this season.

[MORE: Gophers get much-needed statement win vs. Hawkeyes]

Tuesday, McCaffery heaped as much credit on the hot-shooting Gophers as he did blame on his defensively challenged Hawkeyes, and he had a right to do it. Minnesota shot 61.2 percent from the field, 57.9 percent from behind the 3-point line. They had four players in double-figures, including Austin Hollins, who scored a career-high 27 points.

"We need some work. We will keep working on it,” McCaffery said of his team’s defense. “I think we played against a team that was inspired. They were sharing the basketball. (Minnesota) has good shooters. They have not been shooting well. It does not mean they are not good shooters. Hollins has always been a good shooter. He has been off. (Malik) Smith has been off. They have a lot of guys who have been off, and tonight they were making shots.

“A lot of times you lose and you say, ‘We should have done this, or we should have done that.' Minnesota put up 95. We can blame our defense if we want to, but at some point you have to respect your opponent. (Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino) had a good game plan, and the kids executed it. They got open and they made the shots. More power to them.”

[RELATED: Huskers keep on winning as tournament draws near]

But as good as Minnesota was Tuesday at getting the ball into the basket, Iowa allowing a whole mess of points is nothing new. For a team that is challenging to be one of the Big Ten’s best, it ranks third-to-last in the conference in scoring defense, allowing an average of 68.7 points per game.

Over the past seven games, Iowa has allowed 76 points per game, going just 3-4 in those contests.

The Hawkeyes’ offensive proficiency has allowed them to avoid having too many losses, despite a less-than-lockdown defense. After all, they are the 20th-ranked team in the country and boast a 19-8 record. But come the postseason, when a single game can end a season, a high-scoring opponent — or even one that just gets hot for one night, like the Gophers did Tuesday — could provide a whole lot of trouble for the Hawkeyes.