Cyrus Tate was waving his arms around like crazy. He wanted the ball and felt he was open right under the basket. Matt Gatens didn't see him soon enough, and Tate jumped up and swatted at the net in frustration.
A few seconds later, Gatens dribbled into where Tate was posting up on the low block. He tried to force the ball into his big man and it was stolen.
This sequence in last Saturday's 58-43 win against Western Illinois represented a microcosm of the Hawkeyes breaking down in attempts to move the ball from the perimeter to the post at times this season. Iowa has worked on guiding the guards to feed Tate and the rest of the posts, but it has remained a work in progress.
"Yeah, you can never get it inside enough," Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said on Monday. "We'd love to be at the basket more. But one of the things (Western Illinois) was doing the other night was they weren't going to let you get it the paint a whole lot.
"You look at the match-ups and you'd say, oh, you have a size advantage. Well, it wasn't one-on-one in the post. They constantly had somebody down in there helping and they were going to make you make jump shots."
The overmatched Leathernecks led at halftime using this approach a week after Drake blew out the Hawkeyes employing the same tactics. Coming into the Western game, Iowa ranked 15th nationally in three-pointers attempted and three point percentage.
Still, Drake and Western packed in zones and dared the Hawkeyes to beat them from the outside. A lot of that probably had to do with leading scorer, Anthony Tucker (17th nationally in 3-pointers made per game at 3.5), out of the lineup much of the time. Iowa shot 8 of 29 from beyond the arc against Drake and 5 for 15 versus Western.
Meanwhile, Tate has watched his minutes dwindle. The team's leading returning scorer has averaged 23.2 minutes per game, including only 16 at Drake and 14 against Western Illinois. He did battle foul trouble at Drake.
Tate is averaging 7.1 points (fifth on the team) and 6.8 rebounds in 23.2 minutes after posting 8.3 points (third on the team) and 5.4 boards in 22.7 minutes a year ago. He is averaging 1.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in the last two games.
"As you look at Cyrus' game and his strengths, he's more suited to play the post," Lickliter said. "When you play teams like Western Illinois, and give them credit, it's challenging for Cyrus to defend out on the perimeter. And he does a good job. He's capable. But I think he's better when he's defending the post on the block and not doing as much out on the floor.
"What happens with Cyrus is he's physical. You have to hope it's a game that's called accordingly because as you've seen it can be challenging for him. He likes the game to be, and I don't blame him, he does a good job with it. He's legal with his physical (play). Match-ups dictate a lot of Cyrus' success. "
Lickliter does not run traditional sets for his post. It's more about movement.
"I like getting it in there," the coach said. "And I think Cyrus and Jared (Cole) and all our posts are really good at angles and slashing. We're not a team where we just put guys in the block and throw it in and see if they'll double. I don't think that's to our advantage.
"But they're good at getting angles and so on. And that's part of the progression. We need to get comfortable with when to throw it in, at what time, at what angles. We're still developing some of that."
And it's not about post players hollering for the ball in this system.
"You don't have to demand it," Lickliter said. "Our guys should see it. We need to do a better job of recognizing when it's the right time to throw it in and who is in there. I think when and how to throw it in are the keys.
"Our perimeters are working through some of that. And some of it, too, is you can get in the post by penetrating and separating. I'm not comfortable with just going down to the block, demanding the ball and us throwing it in there. I don't know that's to our advantage. But we can get it to the basket other ways."
Lickliter did notice some of Tate's frustrations showing through the other night. He said he was OK with his player being upset.
"He cares. He cares a lot. He cares about the team," Lickliter said. "He's one of the leaders. It's an emotional game. I don't expect people to never be frustrated.
"One of my favorite players of all time was Walt Frazier. Walt never showed it, but he was pretty rare. Most guys will show emotion now and then. A little bit of frustration doesn't hurt anything. Cyrus is the kind of guy who will channel it the right way."