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Hawkeye men taking better care this season

[ 0 ] March 4, 2014 |

The Iowa men’s basketball team is leading the Big Ten Conference in scoring at 79.4 points per game, and the Hawkeyes often play at a frenetic pace.

But there is method to Fran McCaffery’s madness.

“You’ve heard me say this a million times — we play fast, we don’t play nuts,” the Iowa coach said Tuesday. “We’re not jamming the ball into places it can’t go. We’re not driving the ball into packs of people. We’re not throwing long passes that aren’t there.”

Devyn Marble, left, and the Hawkeyes are averaging a combined xx.xx turnovers per game this season, down from xx.x in 2012-13. (Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports photo)

Devyn Marble, left, and the Hawkeyes are averaging a combined 11.4 turnovers per game this season, down from 11.9 in 2012-13. (Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports photo)

Taking care of the basketball has been an area of steady improvement for the Hawkeyes under McCaffery’s watch. Iowa averaged 14.2 turnovers in Big Ten play in 2010-11, McCaffery’s first season. That number has shrunk on an annual basis, to 13.6 in 2011-12, 11.9 last season and 11.4 this year with two regular-season Big Ten games remaining: Thursday at Michigan State and Saturday vs. Illinois.

The Hawkeyes, 20-9 overall and 9-7 in the Big Ten, had just five turnovers in Sunday’s 83-76 victory over Purdue that snapped a three-game losing streak. No Iowa player had more than one turnover against the Boilermakers. That happened one other time this season, when five players each had one turnover in a 83-66 victory against Drake in the Big Four Classic.

Sunday’s game was the fourth game in the last six that Iowa has posted single-digit turnovers. The Hawkeyes had seven against Michigan, six at Penn State and seven at home against Wisconsin. Things took a turn for the worse in the two road games that followed — 13 turnovers in a loss at Minnesota and a season-high 18 in a loss at Indiana.

“I think in many ways, if you look at our team, we got out of character there,” McCaffery said. “It’s one thing if you’re averaging, you know, 12 to 18 turnovers a game and you’re trying to get it to five. But when you’re typically less than 10 and all of a sudden you’re at 18, it’s a little easier to get them to understand we’ve gotten away from what we do and who we are.”

Iowa has made 10 turnovers or less in eight of 16 Big Ten games so far. Only three times — at Indiana, at Michigan and Nebraska at home — have the Hawkeyes been outscored in points after turnovers.

“If you’re coughing it up against a team with great speed — Indiana was one of those teams and so was Michigan State — typically those turnovers are around the top of the key area or the elbow, and shorter distances to the other end of the floor,” McCaffery said. “So you can’t let that happen.”

Iowa is fourth in the Big Ten in both turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio. Taking care of the basketball is paramount if the Hawkeyes want to win at Michigan State for the first time since 1993. Another 18-turnover performance on the road won’t cut it.

“You don’t want it to happen again,” McCaffery said.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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