Drake Dominates Iowa

The Drake Bulldogs ran the Iowa basketball team out of the Knapp Center on Saturday night, dominating the Hawkeyes 75-59. Drake was rarely threatened over the span of the last 27 minutes of the contest, as they were clearly the faster, quicker and more motivated team on the night.

Some disturbing trends have emerged for this Iowa team now 11 games through the 2006-2007 season, and nearly all of them were exploited by Drake on Saturday.

Rebounding: Iowa has been getting killed on the glass this year. Drake won the battle of the boards 41-23. At one point in the first half, Drake had a 21-4 advantage on the glass. It was 25-9 at intermission. In its previous game, Iowa yielded 20 offensive rebounds to Iowa State. Prior to the game, Iowa ranked 9th in the Big Ten in rebounding margin.

Defense: You name the defensive category, and Iowa has had troubles. Coming into the game, Iowa had the worst field goal percentage defense among Big Ten teams, the worst three-point percentage defense, near the bottom in scoring margin, etc. Drake hit 53 percent of its shots against the Hawkeyes. Iowa's transition defense has not been stellar this season, and Drake absolutely destroyed Iowa in transition, when the Hawkeyes were trying to get back on defense. Iowa's radio color analyst Bobby Hansen commented about Iowa looking like it had ‘bags of sand' for shoes against Drake. That comment certain fits. Klayton Korver didn't even score a point, and Drake won by 16.

Inconsistency: We knew coming into this year that this area would be one to watch. I understand that there is going to be some of it with so many new and/or inexperienced faces on the team. Mike Henderson missing the month of November is the last thing this team could have afforded as well. All that being acknowledged and said, Iowa was flat destroyed by a Drake team that could finish 6th or lower in the Missouri Valley Conference. More on that later.

Offense: Coming into the game, Iowa also ranked last in field goal percentage among Big Ten teams. Note to the novice readers; being ranked last in field goal percentage offense, field goal percentage defense and being one of the weakest rebounding teams in your conference, well, that adds up to a long winter. Iowa didn't crack 40 percent from the floor.

I could go on, but it would almost be punitive at this point.

Add to this entire mix, and underscore it; Iowa lost to Drake by 16 points and was never in the game in the second half. It was Drake's first win against Iowa since 1978. I was six years old then. Some of you reading this were not born, some of you reading this had small children. Lute had yet to take Iowa to the Final Four.

I know this is one of Drake's best teams in decades. But Iowa cannot lose to Drake by 16 points, ever. Once every 27 years is too many times. Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta was seated right behind the Iowa bench for this contest, and has already witnessed Iowa lose an 11-point lead with 5:31 remaining against Northern Iowa earlier in the month, a game Iowa would end up losing.

There are more weaknesses that Drake exposed on this night.

I have been worried since before the season began that Iowa would be an easy team to play zone against. You knew coming in against a Tom Davis coached team that Iowa would face a lot of zone. That was the case, and Iowa looked lost. Tyler Smith seemed frustrated from the get go, as it was hard for him to find his spots against the zone.

After the Citadel game when Adam Haluska scored nearly 30 points, I suggested that a box and one might be a good defense to run against Iowa. Drake did that tonight as well and it was also effective.

Iowa also has to figure out a way to keep Haluska and Justin Johnson on the floor together as much as possible. They are Iowa's best, and perhaps lone, consistent deep threats. Johnson came in and knocked down a few three-point shots in the second half…in fact, he hit two of them on back to back possessions. But Iowa yielded two very easy inside buckets after each of those baskets, one of them being an old fashioned three-point play, so the Hawks shaved just one point off of Drake's lead.

There were times in the second half where Drake was running the box and one on Haluska, Johnson was not in the game and Mike Henderson was. Henderson has never been a consistent outside threat, and right about now with his right wrist still being a problem, you don't even have to guard him out there. So it's really four on three for the opponent in that situation, as long as you don't let Henderson penetrate.

What is most bothersome to me at this juncture is that for all of the preseason buzz about this being Coach Alford's most athletic Iowa team, it gets beat in transition far too often and many teams have been far more active against Iowa than Iowa has against them.

After the game, Coach Alford took the blame as good coaches do. In previous years, that has not always been the case, so you have to give him credit there. He also said that Drake is a better basketball team than Iowa is right now. That is also true, and it's also something that cannot happen at Iowa; the Hawkeyes were 53-7 all-time against Drake before Saturday's game.

It's challenging to recruit players to Drake. It's a private and great school with higher admission standards than its Big Ten and Big Twelve counterparts. Yet Drake beat Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum this year, and dominated Iowa at home.

Drake and Northern Iowa are now 2-0 against Iowa and ISU. ISU went 0-3 and Iowa went 1-2 in the annual ‘state tournament'.

At the end of the game, as the final seconds were ticking off the clock, the record crowd inside the Knapp Center were chanting ‘MVC! MVC!', as in Missouri Valley Conference.

It was quite a day for that league, as Bradley handled Iowa State at Wells Fargo Arena earlier in the afternoon almost as easily as Drake dispatched Iowa.

Time for more sobering opinion; where will those two teams, Bradley and Drake, finish in the Missouri Valley Conference?

Wichita State is near the top of the RPI standings right now and has yet to lose a game this season. They beat LSU at LSU and Syracuse at Syracuse so far this year. They might be the best team in the state of Kansas.

Southern Illinois has a chance to beat Indiana on Sunday night, and they have a very good team, better than Drake or Bradley. Missouri State beat Wisconsin in the Kohl Center, something Iowa has never done. We know about UNI, and Creighton may finish ahead of both Bradley and Drake. That is five teams that one can make a case for being better than the team that just beat Iowa by 16 points. Illinois State beat St. Johns this year, and Indiana State handed Butler its lone loss of the year; Butler beat Purdue in Indianapolis on Saturday.

The Missouri Valley Conference is better than the Big Ten and might be better than the Big 12. Believe that hype.

But Drake should never beat an Iowa team the way it did on Saturday, December 16th, 2006. That is a date that may wind up being one to remember for Drake and Iowa fans alike.

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