Iowa drilled 13 3-pointers while playing stout defense in Saturday’s 30-point rout of Michigan State. It was a combination that paid dividends nearly everywhere on the floor.
“When you’re making 3s and you’re getting stops, it opens driving lanes,” Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery said. “It opens post feeds. It opens opportunities to get to the free-throw line. It changes everything. I think it really changed how our team performed offensively throughout the game.”
Iowa (15-6, 9-5 Big Ten) will aim to repeat that formula when it visits No. 21 Wisconsin (15-7, 9-6) on Thursday. The No. 11 Hawkeyes are seeking their third victory in a row.
The Hawkeyes continue to adjust to a lower-leg injury to CJ Frederick that has kept the sophomore out of the lineup for much of February. Frederick’s absence means McCaffery must do some lineup shifting, and at Michigan State, that allowed the coach’s son, Connor, to enjoy an increased offensive workload as he moved from power forward to shooting guard.
After missing his first two attempts from deep, McCaffery hit four straight 3-pointers to set a career high en route to scoring 16 points.
That provided an effective complement for Jordan Wieskamp (21 points) and reserve Jack Nunge (18) as Connor McCaffery seized an opportunity.
“Most of the time, I shy away (from shooting) and try to do more distributing, but when (Fredrick) is out of the lineup, I know that I have to be more aggressive,” he said. “And some games, that doesn’t come naturally. But I wanted to make it a focus.
“People always tweet at me: ‘You can’t shoot. You can’t score. You’re worthless on offense.’ Well, actually, I just don’t shoot a lot. It’s different when you shoot two or three shots than when you get to shoot eight or nine times.”
Wisconsin is coming off a 67-59 loss to No. 3 Michigan on Sunday. The Badgers squandered a 12-point lead at halftime and still were ahead 57-54 with 4:01 to play before missing their final seven attempts from the field.
“Any loss really hurts,” Wisconsin’s D’Mitrik Trice said. “But this one, where we did lead for most of the game, definitely hurts.”
Overall, the Badgers scored just six points and one field goal in the last 7:45. After shooting 53.8 percent in the first half, Wisconsin was 7-for-28 from the field after halftime while missing its last 11 3-point attempts.
“We got a bit stagnant in the second half,” said the Badgers’ Aleem Ford. “In the first half, we were getting stops and were able to push it and put them in tough positions defensively to where they made mistakes, and we were able to capitalize on them.”
The Badgers’ starting five combined for only 10 points on 2-for-16 shooting in the second half, struggles the team will hope to reverse for the looming stretch run.
Beginning Thursday and ending with the regular season finale at Iowa on March 7, the Badgers are set to play three of their final five games against ranked teams.
“We’ve still got a lot of opportunities in these last five games,” Trice said. “We can’t hang our heads for too long.”
–Field Level Media