Howe: Changes Needed

After getting off to a 3-0 start, Iowa has been blown out the last two games. Wednesday, it came at home against Campbell of the Big South. Some disturbing trends have surfaced early this season.

Iowa CITY, Iowa - There may come a day when Iowa stops losing at home to teams like South Dakota State, Texas-San Antonio and Duquesne.That time will be welcomed by Hawkeye fans.

Campbell University knocked off the Hawkeyes, 77-61, here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Wednesday night. Even for a rebuilding team, Iowa embarrassed themselves with a lack of effort and energy.

What made it worse is that the Hawkeyes bombed against Creighton on Sunday for the same reasons. That should have served as a wake-up call. Instead, Iowa stayed asleep.

Defense and rebounding represent two key areas where effort and energy are measured on the basketball court. Iowa is not playing good defense or hitting the glass like it wants to put a decade plus of futility behind it.

Devyn Marble came to play Wednesday night. Josh Oglesby, despite an ill-advised, behind-the-back pass that garnered the wrath of his coach, showed a pulse. Zach McCabe tried even if his decisions weren't always the right ones.

Beyond that, something is missing. You know that. You watch the games. Oops, you probably can't thanks to the BTN.

Sorry. Let me explain.

The guys that were leaders on this team last year and expected to expand that role in 2011-12, have not pulled their weight this season. It could be excused for a game, maybe two, but not when there's a consistent lack of effort and intensity through five contests.

Melsahn Basabe earned all-freshmen honors in the Big Ten last season. The New York native scored two points and grabbed three rebounds in 19 minutes on Wednesday. His game has gone backwards.

Bryce Cartwright has been under the weather but seemed OK on Wednesday. Coach Fran McCaffery sat him for 10 minutes in the first half because he wasn't pleased with his play. He finished with four points, two assists and three turnovers in 26 minutes.

Eric May contributed four points and two boards in 20 minutes. He looked like an all-Big Ten player as Iowa started 3-0 against weak opposition. The last two games, he's been the player that struggled and lost his confidence last season.

That leads us to senior Matt Gatens. The Iowa City native scored 17 points, grabbed five rebounds, had two assists and two steals. Statistically, he's been fine.

That said, it's time for Gatens to step out of his comfort zone. If he plans on leaving Iowa with a winning record for the first time in his career, he should vocally get after his teammates before it's too late. If they don't like it, too bad. No regrets.

Gatens said on Sunday that the team had defensive deficiencies that didn't show up in the first three games. Iowa has played softly on that end in its last two contents. The Hawkeyes let opponents drive right down the lane without contesting the shot. They have gone under, around and over the Hawkeyes for rebounds (Campbell led, 34-29 on the glass. The Camels dunked their way to 62.2 percent shooting from the floor).

"We didn't have the kind of defensive intensity you need to play a team of this caliber," McCaffery said. "It wasn't like we didn't know they were good."

It's obvious that Iowa isn't the most talented BCS-level team. It's a stretch to say the Hawkeyes would have beaten Creighton on Sunday even with focus and effort.

"We weren't executing on offense and weren't running the way we want to run," McCaffery said. "We weren't really doing anything we wanted to do and we weren't doing anything effectively, that's for sure, on either end of the floor."

With all due respect to Campbell, who was picked to finish ninth out of 11 teams in the Big South Conference, the Fighting Camels should not be able to knock out Iowa at home. The Hawkeye players and coaches should feel embarrassed.

McCaffery tried everything to get his team going on Wednesday. He used a first-half timeout to scream at his players, twice slamming his clipboard on the court. Later, he tried the calm approach. He sat guys for dogging it. He barely received a pulse from them.

College-aged kids have an uncanny ability to bounce back. We see it all the time across the sports landscape. The odds of that happening become longer when you dig too deep of a hole and get comfortable in your bad habits.

If guys still loaf when you cut their minutes in half, McCaffery should reduce them even more. Iowa's ceiling sits only so high, anyway, this season. McCaffery should keep sending a message, no matter the cost in wins and losses.

McCaffery skipped his radio post-game Wednesday night. He kept his team in the locker room for an extended period of time. It surely was not for cake and ice cream.

Maybe Cartwright's struggles are a result of an illness, but he's rarely looked like the player he was last season even when he was thought to be healthy. The Hawkeyes have to get more from the senior point guard.

There's plenty of time left in this season, but it's imperative that the Hawkeyes take a step forward in Year 2 of McCaffery's rebuild. Things need to change. Fast.

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