An already deep Iowa men’s basketball team finally will be at full strength Sunday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff with the return of junior shooting guard Josh Oglesby.
His return from a foot injury will expand Iowa’s rotation from 10 to 11 players.
But will it be enough to help the team overcome what plagued last year’s squad, which was the inability to win close games?
Iowa lost seven games last season by four points or fewer, and in its two losses this season (to Villanova in overtime and Iowa State) it squandered late leads.
“With the depth we have, I feel like we’re not as tired at the end of games, and we can rotate throughout the entire game,” sophomore point guard Mike Gesell said. “And we can close out games with different lineups, too; whatever is working for us that game, because every game is different.
“And we’re obviously more experienced. We have a lot of leadership.”
It’s unlikely that Sunday’s 1 p.m. game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena will be a down-to-the-wire test, with 10-2 Iowa considered a heavy favorite vs. the 2-8 Golden Lions.
The Hawkeyes’ most recent setback — an 85-82 loss against Iowa State last Friday in Ames — was similar to some of their near-misses last season, with a failure to make plays (or more specifically, free throws) in the final minutes.
Gesell and senior guard Devyn Marble both missed key free throws down the stretch that helped to seal the defeat.
“I wouldn’t worry about us,” Gesell said. “It’s early in the season. Iowa State made the plays they needed to down the stretch. They’re a very good ball club, and they were just able to pull it out.
“You can’t win them all, and we’re going to bounce back from that.”
Iowa returned all but one key player from last season’s team that was 25-13 and finished runner-up to Baylor in the National Invitation Tournament.
Marble thinks this year’s Iowa team is better equipped to win close games.
“We definitely are,” he said “You can only try and put yourself in a position to win and hope that you can make those plays. We’ve made them in some games and we haven’t in others. We have to learn from it and try to make sure we don’t make those same mistakes twice.”
Junior forward Aaron White, who scored 25 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the loss at Iowa State, isn’t worried about a negative mindset creeping in from close losses.
“That’s not something you worry about, it’s just something we have to work on,” White said. “We have a great team, and I’m confident in the guys that we’ll close out the next one.”
White was asked Thursday while meeting with reporters what Iowa needs to do in order to win close games.
“The game of basketball isn’t about doing one thing or doing another thing,” White said. “It’s about reacting to certain situations you’re in and it’s about countering what you’re opponents are doing to you.
“So there is really no answer to that question. If the game is going a certain way, we have to make our free throws. If the game is going a certain way, we have to take care of the ball. If the game is going a certain way, we have to knock down perimeter shots.”
As for Oglesby, the 6-foot-5 Cedar Rapids native will give 25th-ranked Iowa another perimeter shooter. He appeared in 37 games last season and ranked second on the team with 42 3-pointers. Oglesby has missed the first 12 games this season after injuring his foot in practice.
Oglesby said Thursday after practice that his foot still hurts at times when he plays defense, but also that he is shooting well in practice.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball