The Cincinnati Bearcats face a simple task this week: beat the Iowa Hawkeyes in a game of basketball. Although the statement is an easy one to grasp, capturing the result could be more difficult. The Bearcats shouldn’t panic, however, as Iowa was defeated 11 times this season. That may not be enough to indict them as a bad team (they did make the NCAA Tournament after all), but it provides enough evidence about just how a team should approach a matchup with the Hawkeyes. Here is a lesson from each of Iowa’s losses that the Bearcats can use to prepare.
Nov. 30 vs. Wisconsin - Attack the Paint on Offense
The Badgers made a couple clutch three-pointers in the final minutes to pull out a 72-66 win, but it was their consistent offensive play on the interior that put them in a position to win. They ended up outscoring the Hawkeyes 38-26 in the paint, with Ethan Happ producing 13 points, including a critical jumper in the final minute.
Dec. 3 at Michigan State - Move the Ball
The lesson from this one could also be play a perfect game, but that’s not very helpful. Among the many dominating aspects of this 90-68 win for the Spartans, it was their unselfish play on offense that stands out. They assisted on 28 of their 31 made field goals, including 12 dimes alone from Cassius Winston.
Jan. 3 at Purdue - Capitalize on Mistakes
This may seem like an obvious one, but just because the other team stumbles doesn’t mean you are guaranteed success. The Boilermakers took advantage just about every time the Hawkeyes lost the ball, scoring 23 points off of 13 turnovers. The Bearcats force 13.6 turnovers per game, so its very possible that they could create just as many additional scoring opportunities.
Jan. 24 vs. Michigan State - Play Great in the Second Half
Iowa had the Spartans on the ropes, leading 35-31 at halftime and by as many as eight points overall. Michigan State didn’t stand for that in the final 20 minutes, connecting on 66.7 percent of their shots from the floor, including 6-of-10 from three. That type of shooting isn’t sustainable for an entire game, of course, but it shows that the Hawkeyes aren’t incapable of giving up a lead.
Jan. 27 at Minnesota - Be Aggressive AND Patient
The first part of this equation may be difficult. The Golden Gophers played at a 73.4 possessions per 40 minutes pace, which is far beyond UC’s normal tempo, but they also assisted on 25 of their 32 made field goals. Just because you push the issue doesn’t mean you have to settle for bad shots.
Feb. 19 vs. Maryland - Follow Your Misses in Crunch Time
Feb. 26 at Ohio State - Balance the Offense
The Buckeyes beat the Hawkeyes by 20 points and the key was sharing the scoring responsibilities. Justin Ahrens scored 29 points to lead the way, but four other Buckeyes scored in double figures as well. In all fairness, the rest of the roster accounted for all of six points, but they didn’t really need to do any more than that either.
March 2 vs. Rutgers - Keep Passing and Make Your Threes
This upset victory for the Scarlet Knights featured some explosive offensive action, primarily thanks to an potent three-point attack (11-of-23), which was spearheaded by four triples apiece from Ron Harper Jr. and Issa Thiam. In addition, Rutgers racked up 21 assists on 30 made field goals.
March 7 at Wisconsin - Stop Tyler Cook
The Badgers did everything right defensively in this win, but the most impressive thing was holding the Hawkeyes’ top scorer from producing a single point in 24 minutes. Cook missed all six of his field goal attempts and didn’t get to the foul line once. With Cook subdued, the Hawkeyes only posted an offensive rating of 66.2 and lost by 20 points.
March 10 at Nebraska - Don’t Miss Free Throws
Another obvious answer, but this has additional meaning because the Hawkeyes get to the line so frequently. If you can’t keep up with them, you’ll have a tough time winning. Nebraska found that out as it needed overtime to pull out a 93-91 win. If the Cornhuskers had shot better than 50 percent the line, they may not have had to go to all that trouble.
March 15 vs. Michigan - Make Three-Point Shooting Impossible
In a Big Ten Conference Tournament matchup, the Wolverines played excellent defense on the perimeter, limiting the Hawkeyes to just a 1-of-16 showing from three. The Bearcats are outside the top 200 teams in the country in three-point defense, but with enough time to prepare, they may be able to adjust their defensive strategy.
Some of these lessons are not particularly ground breaking, while others give a real indication of what makes Iowa tick and what doesn’t. The Bearcats may not be able to accomplish each of these tasks on their growing to-do list, but if they check off enough of those boxes, a win is sure to follow.