Big Ten Wonk
Thursday, January 19, 2006
It took 55 minutes--but it's a W
Iowa beat Minnesota 76-72 in triple overtime in Iowa City last night. I joined this game with seven minutes left in regulation but the overall dynamic at work in Carver-Hawkeye quickly became clear, even for this latecomer. Here is a window onto the soul of this game: every time the Hawkeyes attempted a three or the Gophers attempted a free throw, I literally turned away from the screen in Edvard Munch-level horror. The shooting was that hideous. Iowa's 3FG pct. for the evening was 5.0. No, that's not a typo. They went 1-of-20. Meanwhile the Gophers were hitting just 13-of-24 free throws, which doesn't sound as bad but keep in mind about 10 of those makes happened before I tuned in. Minnesota went 1-of-5 from the line in OT.

The Hawkeyes finally secured a lead in the third OT with identical back-to-back plays set up for Adam Haluska. (A play usually designed for Greg Brunner. "When you play for 50 minutes, they've seen everything," Steve Alford explained afterward. "So we just inverted it and brought Adam to the post and had Bru be the screen.") Carver-Hawkeye was strangely quiet and on the second run-through set up for Haluska, watching from home, I could swear I heard someone--could it have been Alford?--yelling "Same play! Same play!" Seems like a bit of a tip for your opponent doesn't it? Anyway it worked. Haluska was fouled and sank both freebies. Iowa's lead reached five, which, in this game, was like 15. It was enough. (Box score.)

BONUS Erek Hansen note! Funny how you don't hear any more wondering aloud (say, like this) as to why Steve Alford gives so many minutes to Hansen, huh? True, the big guy is still a surprisingly unproductive rebounder for someone who looks like he can touch the rim flat-footed. So what? He virtually defines Iowa as a team. Take Hansen away and the tough Hawkeye D becomes much less aggressive, perimeter traps become much less forceful, passing lanes much less overplayed, etc. Not to mention he gets in the heads of every opposing offense and alters shots. Lastly, Hansen's offense has, at long last, improved. (After three years of articles about Hansen looking to improve his offense--he's improved his offense: he scored a career-high 20 points last night.) He's still not going to be confused for Marco Killingsworth, mind you, but last night I watched in wonderment as Hansen posted up strong, called for the ball (he really wanted it!), and took it strong to the tin. Essence of the Hawkeyes Erek Hansen, Wonk salutes you!

EXCLUSIVE idle speculation! Neither Minnesota nor Iowa gives a lot of minutes to their benches to start with and by the second OT, much less the third, both teams were visibly exhausted. Substitutions on the Gopher side in OT were minimal. (Mostly rotating Jonathan Williams and Spencer Tollackson, with a little Rico Tucker now and then.) And changes on the Iowa side in OT were, I believe, non-existent. Offhand I don't recall a single Hawkeye substitution after the 40th minute.

Why is that? By the second OT players could be seen walking up the floor. Sure, these are your best players. But when they can no longer even jog, you can't tell me this is your best team. I found myself musing as to the havoc, say, a fresh Jamal Abu-Shamala or Tony Freeman could have wreaked amidst these slow-footed zombies. Maybe sticking with your regulars is sound strategy. On the other hand, maybe it's simply another instance of unquestioned and ossified coaching error. Just posing the question.

Sure, the game was 55 minutes long but still: 23 rebounds for Brunner is impressive. So, in the opposite direction, is fouling out in just 14 minutes, as J'son Stamper did. And, though he went just 1-of-8 on his threes, Jeff Horner notched the rare points-assists dub-dub with 10 and 10....In the span of just one (admittedly long) game, Minnesota's 3FG pct. defense in-conference went from a hideous 47.9 to a normal 35.3. In the span of that same game, Iowa's 3FG pct. in-conference went from a not very normal 33.9 to a hideous 26.3....For more, see the briskly efficient game recap at the Golden Gopher Hoops blog.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Ohio State beat Wisconsin 77-67 in Columbus last night. The tough FG defense that had propelled the Badgers' strong start in conference play vanished, as the Buckeyes notched a kinda gaudy 60.6 effective FG pct. ("We've just got to guard better," said Bo Ryan after the game.) And shooting was indeed the difference. (Wisconsin, as one would expect, controlled the boards (37.2 offensive rebound pct., 73.3 defensive) and neither team turned the ball over.) Many of OSU's shots came from in close (they attempted only 15 threes) and Terence Dials led the home team with 15 points. Kammron Taylor (15 FGAs) and Alando Tucker (22 FGAs) each scored 21 points for the Badgers. No, that big-eyed look Tucker had last night isn't an optical illusion caused by his protective mask. That's the look he gets when he's guarded by Matt Sylvester, as he was for a good stretch after J.J. Sullinger picked up his fourth foul. Tucker posted up repeatedly and schooled Sylvester as ESPN analyst Steve Lavin raved about Tucker's post offense. Sure, Tucker's good, I found myself thinking--but Sylvester's a big help....Brian Butch limped off the floor with what appeared to be a sprained ankle. He returned to the action but was notably hobbled. And the Badgers made the trip without Greg Stiemsma ("medical issues") and Marcus Landry ("academic issues"). As a result, UW freshman Joe Krabbenhoft played a season-high 31 minutes and recorded 13 boards. Good for Krabbenhoft but possibly bad for Wisconsin in the long run--at cbs.sportsline this morning, Gregg Doyel says the suddenly thinner Badger roster is severely limited by NCAA Title IX-based rules....For more, see the nifty game recap from the Buckeye Sports Blitz blog. (Box score.)

Michigan beat Northwestern 68-51 last night in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines posted a surgical 72.8 effective FG pct.--that's Florida State-against-Purdue good, my friends. An apparently healthy Lester Abram, previously slowed by a bad toe and thus a conspicuous lacuna in Saturday's outing at Illinois, led the home team with 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Vedran Vukusic, on the other hand, had a miserable outing for the Wildcats: just 6-of-17 from the field. (Tommy Amaker gave credit to Chris Hunter for his D on Vukusic. Bill Carmody drew a different conclusion: "We've got to get Vedran some help.") NU recorded just six made field goals after halftime. (Ye gods.) Daniel Horton hobbled off the court with a twisted ankle midway through the second half and did not return. But after the game Horton told reporters he's fine and will be ready for the game at Minnesota Saturday. BONUS box score oddity! The Wolverines attempted one free throw. One? (Box score.)

Penn State beat Purdue 74-54 in State College last night. Geary Claxton led the Nittany Lions with a 20-10 dub-dub while teammate Jamelle Cornley continued to build a case for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, scoring 18 on just nine FGAs. Meanwhile the Boilers continued to struggle to hold on to the rock, coughing up 19 turnovers against PSU's 1-3-1 trap in a 65-possession game. Needlessly helpful scouting note for future Boiler opponents! "They played a strong 1-3-1 and we tend to turn the ball over against a 1-3-1," said Purdue freshman Marcus Green after the game. Sagacious Nittany Lion observer Jeff Rice says Penn State "looked very much at ease playing the defense-to-offense, up-tempo style Ed DeChellis has been working to build." (Box score.)

Group profile of the 2007 Michigan State recruiting class here: Kalin Lucas, Chris Allen, and Durrell Summers.

Profile of 2007 Illinois recruit and Indianapolis high school baller Eric Gordon here....Is Dee Brown injured? Earnest speculation here....Oracular Illini observer Mark Tupper says he "can’t explain (nor can he, I’m sure) the dropoff in free throw shooting accuracy from James Augustine, who is now shooting 67 percent after hitting 75 percent last season and an excellent 84.7 percent in Big Ten play last year."...Profile of Wonk's fellow Springfieldian, Rich McBride, here.

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Hoosier fans want to see the numbers behind the W!

We all know you're an Illinois fan but how about a bit more analysis from the Hoosiers' side of last night's game to match the plethora of Illinois musings? A bit of analysis about IU's vastly improved rebounding and defense might have been nice. Some additional tempo-free stats as well.

One thing I've failed to see mentioned on any blog is that during the early Illini run, Killingsworth was suffering from back spasms, spending some time on the bench and generally being ineffective. His second half domination might have been for the entire game without said ailment.

Chris T.
Orange, Virginia

Indiana's defense was indeed vastly improved over what we saw in the Michigan State game. And as for the rebounding, I think I noted that it (and Illinois' abysmal free throw shooting) won the Hoosiers the game. So let's get to some numbers!

Let's start with another nugget gleaned from my 82 Games-style possession-charting....

Killingsworth on the floor:
58 offensive possessions--0.95 points per possession (PPP)
58 defensive possessions--0.76 opp. PPP

Killingsworth off the floor:
Nine offensive possessions--0.78 PPP
Eight defensive possessions--2.00 opp. PPP

Small sample size for "off the floor," sure, but Tuesday night, at least, Killingsworth would appear to have helped IU's D even more than he did its offense.

MORE Indiana numbers from Tuesday night!
PPP: 0.94
Effective FG pct.: 48.0
Oreb pct.: 34.4
Dreb pct.: 77.1
TO pct.: 25.7

MORE Illinois numbers from Tuesday night!
PPP: 0.91
Effective FG pct.: 45.6
Oreb pct.: 22.9
Dreb pct.: 65.6
TO pct.: 16.6

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