IOWA CITY, Iowa – “You know we’re deeper, we’re smarter and we’re better defensively.”
— Fran McCaffery, Iowa head coach
A year after the Hawkeyes were one of the worst defensive teams in the country, a concerted effort on the defensive end is producing a drastic improvement.
“You hear it everywhere we go, what a crappy season it was, so that gave us a lot of motivation,” Iowa junior guard Jordan Bohannon said.
Iowa is holding Big Ten opponents to almost nine points less per game this season, while limiting them to just 30 percent shooting on three pointers — compared to nearly 42 percent a year ago.
“When we get down, we’re getting hyped up on the defensive end,” Iowa sophomore forward Luka Garza said. “We want to get stops and we want to build a lead and we’re doing a better job controlling the game. Our whole team is locked into the scouting report and doing what the coaches are telling us.”
The defensive improvement simply had to happen after last season’s meltdown. Bohannon says the mindset changed almost immediately after last season in the April workouts.
“Everyone just bought into what we needed to do,” Bohannon said. “We didn’t have anyone complaining about anything, we didn’t have anyone down. Everyone was optimistic on what we could do this season and we’re playing the best basketball we have in a long time.”
Being able to effectively switch between zone or man-to-man defense is another factor contributing to the team’s resurgence.
“The guys know were going to play those defenses at some point in the next game,” McCaffery said. “This is the way that I’ve always done it. The mentors I’ve had, we played this way, had success with it. I’m comfortable with it and consequently I think the guys are comfortable with it.”
With the wins over Ohio State and Northwestern, Iowa held back-to-back Big Ten opponents under 65 points for the first time since the 2015-16 season. That’s the last time this program has made the NCAA tournament.