IOWA CITY, Ia. - It didn't take long for Iowa basketball fans to notice the change in style. Their Hawkeyes scored more points in Sunday's first half than it did for plenty of complete games during the last three years.
New Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery Era kicked off with an electric display of offense on Sunday. The Hawkeyes torched Illinois-Springfield in an exhibition here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, 111-66. They led 57-27 at the intermission.
"Style wise, it went from hard to easy," said Iowa point guard Cully Payne, who had 10 assists. "It's like taking a test. You can take an easy test or a hard test. This is all easy. This is just reads. Playing loose and just fun."
The crowd was small (9,050 announced, about 6,000 actual) but excited about the new brand of basketball. McCaffery's predecessor, Todd Lickliter, played a deliberate, half-court style. Under his guidance, Iowa averaged 60.5 points a game last season, and scored 57 or less in 15 games during that campaign. In his three seasons, the team scored 57 or less in 47 of 96 contests.
"I can't promise 111 every game, but we're going to try. I can tell you that," McCaffery said. "Again, when you're scoring the ball like that, you don't want to look back and say, "Boy, we quick shot the ball too many times. We had contested shots." We had very few contested shots.
"That's the key. When you're playing up tempo, you need players taking shots in their range, in rhythm. Then it doesn't really matter when it appears in the shot clock. That's where folks get bogged down. We need a shot late in the clock. All of a sudden, you're turning down a good shot early and rushing one late."
The Hawkeyes used a 1-2-2 half-court trap on a few occasions, but their break was fueled by stingy defense in the quarter court. They also rebounded well and ran off of those opportunities.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said before the season that sophomore Eric May would benefit the most from the change in style. It showed up on Sunday as the Dubuque native dropped in a team-best 21 points, several coming on highlight reel, fast-break slams.
"When you have a guy like Eric May, you want him to get out in transition and get some easy baskets," McCaffery said. "When he does, he's going to shoot the ball better. He shot the ball well. He's also penetrating and giving the ball up. He was spectacular today, no question."
Six different Hawkeyes reached double figures in scoring. True freshman Melsahn Basabe contributed 19 points and shared game-high rebounding honors with classmate Devyn Marble with eight. Marble and walk-on Jordan Stoermer each scored 11. Bryce Cartwright netted 12 to go with five assists, while Zach McCabe notched 10 points and passed out three assists.
McCaffery said this style of play will help in recruiting.
"I'm a guy that I think is relatively easy to play for," the coach said. "We're going to get you ready and then we're going to let you play. We're going to push the ball and let you make plays and make sure you're not afraid to turn it over once in a while."
Style on the court wasn't the only change for the Hawkeyes. The players showed up to the post-game interviews in suits.
"That's coach. That's all coach," Payne said. "He got some suits and ties in here. Hopefully it helps us out with the girls or something."
The Illinois-Springfield program was started by former Hawkeye Kevin Gamble, who coached nine seasons at the school. He left to become an assistant at Providence in June.
The Prairie Stars play in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. It's a Division II league.
-Iowa started Payne, May, McCabe, Basabe and Cole. Cole was questionable during the week with a foot injury.
-Josh Oglesby, a 2011 recruit expected to sign a national letter of intent with Iowa on Wednesday, sat behind the Hawkeye bench for the game. He appeared to be the only recruit in attendance.
-McCaffery experimented with many different lineups on the floor. He went big with Brommer and Cole playing together. He went small with Basabe at center along with Payne, Cartwright, McCabe and May.
-McCaffery said that he would likely red shirt true freshman walk-on Darius Stokes. The Marion product scored five points in the exhibition.
-Iowa held a 37-6 advantage in points off of turnovers and a 22-2 edge in fast break points. The Hawkeyes handed out 24 assists and only turned it over 10 times.