Slow Start, Again
Slow starts have just burned the Hawkeyes this Big Ten season, especially on the road. They had a week off to look at why this was consistently an issue for them, but it looks like they didn't come up with anything. They fell down 10-0 early in the game and it took a Christian Williams field goal at the 16:09 mark to get the Iowa scoring started. Fran McCaffery flirted with the idea of switching up his starting lineup, but wound up leaving it alone. Which surprised me because of the injuries that Iowa has been dealing with and the news that Jordan Bohannon is battling sickness. The effort level again was not there and now that Fran McCaffery has flirted with the idea, I think he pulls the trigger on Saturday. He already switched up the starting lineup that came out of the locker room.
Defense Still Bad
The Illini got wide open looks from just about every spot on the floor on Wednesday night. Michael Finke made the Hawkeyes pay in the first half when he poured in 12 points. Iowa was not defending the three point line, which gave up the wide open threes and then they were letting Illini guards get into the paint whenever they wanted. It's just about effort. A prime example is in the second half when Illinois had the ball on the baseline. An Illini guard tossed it in to Malcolm Hill out top, who stepped in to a wide open three pointer that was completely uncontested. There was no effort to close out and Hill buried it. They still rank last in the Big Ten in scoring defense and it doesn't appear like it's going to get any better anytime soon. It is the mark of a young team, but the defense on the road in Big Ten games has been worse than it has been at home.
Still Struggling with Injuries
I thought the week off may help the Hawkeyes recover from these injuries that seem to be bothering them. Peter Jok's back has been bothering him for a few weeks now and depending on the severity, I'm not entirely sure how he's still playing. Back injuries are nothing to take lightly. He just hasn't looked right and everyone has noticed. Bohannon was dealing with sickness before the game and did not look right for most of the night. When your team is so young and your best scorer isn't himself it's hard to win games, let alone Big Ten road games. It's hard to see Iowa getting fully healthy the rest of the season. But they need to if they're making a postseason push.
Second Half Hump
They continually get behind big, but last Thursday against Maryland were able to overcome the sluggish start. They took the lead in the second half, but watched it disappear as Melo Trimble came up with big shots. They got the game tonight down to 11 on four separate occasions, but were unable to get any closer. They had chances, because the Illini struggled in the second half from the field. They could eliminate having to comeback by coming out with a bit more intensity, but they've shown a bit of resiliency in the second half to battle. Peter Jok even had a chance to cut it to 9 with five minutes left with a wide open three, but could not convert. They're a different team at home as opposed to on the road, so they've really got to stop digging such an early hole.
Thoughts on Baer
He needs to start. I've preached that he's best used off the bench, but Iowa's giant issue right now is lack of effort right out of the gate. Baer is a guy that gives you that. He was probably the best Hawkeye tonight, but Ahmad Wagner was a close second. These are two guys that I can see being put in the starting lineup. The Hawkeyes desperately need somebody to bring some energy to start the game and these two would definitely provide that. We'll see what happens on Saturday night.