Photo: Iowa’s Filip Rebraca is second on the Hawkeyes in rebounding. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)
By John Bohnenkamp
Iowa has all week to prepare for Saturday’s game against Utah State.
It’s a chance to get healthy — see Murray, Keegan — and a chance to get some rest after playing a stretch of four games, including three on the road, in 11 days.
But the players knew after Thursday’s 73-53 loss at Iowa State where the focus was going to be this week.
It’s all about rebounding.
The Hawkeyes (7-3) are on a three-game losing streak, and they’ve been outrebounded 144-85 in that stretch. They were outrebounded by Illinois 52-23 in an 87-83 loss, a number that Iowa coach Fran McCaffery deemed as “unacceptable,” then followed that by getting outrebounded 50-32 at Iowa State.
“I think it just comes back to our rebounding,” forward Patrick McCaffery said after Thursday’s game. “It’s not effort. I’ll never question our effort. Maybe it’s our positioning.”
Iowa ranks 235th nationally with a minus-0.8 rebounding margin. They are 255th in defensive rebounds per game (24.6) and 159th in rebounds and rebounds per game.
The Hawkeyes came into the season with a size disadvantage — center Luka Garza, the consensus national player of the year, graduated and went to the NBA, while center Jack Nunge transferred to Xavier to be closer to home. They added forward Filip Rebraca, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward who is averaging 6.2 rebounds per game.
But the Hawkeyes, it seems, have been beaten to too many rebounds in the past three games. Some of that has been from that disadvantage, going against the Purdue post combination of Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams and Illinois center Kofi Cockburn. Williams and Cockburn each had 18 rebounds.
Iowa State didn’t have that dominant post presence, but the Cyclones were constantly active. They had 21 rebounds that they converted into 19 second-chance points.
“I think they were quicker to the ball,” Fran McCaffery said. “It’s not like their ‘5’ man rebounded better than our ‘5’ man. It’s not like that. It’s five guys. They just did a much better job of getting to the basketball than we did.
“Tonight we had no excuse,” Patrick McCaffery said.
Those offensive rebounds can wear down a defense, guard Jordan Bohannon said.
“Any time you play defense for 25, 27, 29 seconds of the shot clock, and get them to take a tough shot, and then they end up flying to the glass and getting the kick-out, and then you’ve got to play 20 more seconds again, all of the sudden you’re playing a minute of defense and that’s something that doesn’t formulate into a win,” Bohannon said.
Not rebounding has hindered Iowa’s transition offense. The Hawkeyes shot just 27 percent and had five fast-break points against the Cyclones.
“At the end of the day, you can say their defense was great, which it was,” Bohannon said. “But we’ve got to do a lot better job on the offensive glass and the defensive glass. We can’t keep continuing to get outrebounded by 15 or 20.”
“If you’re struggling with 27 percent, you’ve got to go get some back,” Fran McCaffery said. “They did that, we didn’t.”
It will help to get Murray healthy. He’s the Hawkeyes’ leading rebounder at 7.9 per game, but he’s been bothered by a sprained right ankle. Murray didn’t play at all against Purdue, and he had just nine rebounds combined against Illinois and Iowa State.
Murray says he figures he’ll be at “100 percent” for the Utah State game.
He also knows the secret of better rebounding lies with the Hawkeyes’ effort.
“Just tag,” he said. “Just tag whoever you’re guarding. That’s rebounding — tag and pursue the basketball.”
A look at the NCAA’s NET rankings through Sunday’s game:
Iowa State 17
• Cyclones are 4-0 in Quad 1 and 2 games. They’re at No. 50 in KenPom.
• Hawkeyes are 1-3 in Quads 1 and 2. They have a KenPom ranking of 30.
Western Illinois 79
• Leathernecks are 0-1 in Quad 1-2 games. They’re at 165 in KenPom, with a projected final record of 21-9 overall, 12-6 in the Summit League
— Bulldogs are 0-4 in Quad 1-2 games.
• Panthers are 1-2 in Quad 1-2 games, 0-4 in Quad 3 games.
Iowa State 12
• Cyclones are 3-1 against NET top-50 teams.
• Hawkeyes are 1-2 against NET top-50 teams.
• Panthers are 5-3, but all three of those losses are against NET top-50 teams.
• Bulldogs are 1-1 against NET top-50 teams.
Western Illinois 138
• Leathernecks are 0-1 against NET top-50 teams.