Iowa has made good use of its week between last Thursday’s loss at Wisconsin and this Thursday’s home game against Indiana.
“It’s really been a couple of days of reflection,” forward Keegan Murray said on Tuesday.
And it’s clear the Hawkeyes have been thinking about rebounding.
A common denominator in Iowa’s four losses this season has been a lack of rebounding, something that showed up in the 87-78 loss to Wisconsin, when the Badgers had a 43-26 rebounding edge.
Iowa is 204th nationally with a plus-0.7 rebounding margin. And on Thursday they’ll face a team that is fourth nationally with 30.8 rebounds per game, and 21st nationally with a plus-8.2 rebounding margin.
“Well, I think it's a collective situation,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “A lot of the rebounds we're not getting are the long (ones) — you know, teams shooting a lot of threes, balls bouncing funny. Our guards have to rebound better, our wings have to rebound better.
“Yeah, we have to be more physical at times, but when you're struggling rebounding the ball it's not just the ‘4’ man and the ‘5’ man, it's everybody. We have to be better collectively, which is only going to help us on offense as well.”
“Rebounding is obviously a team thing,” Murray said. “So obviously we have to buy in as a team. We’re taking it upon ourselves to be better rebounding collectively. Obviously you can’t be on offense if you don’t have the ball. So that’s something we need to take pride in going into Thursday.”
The Hawkeyes (11-4 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) have to be careful about not falling deeper in the Big Ten standings. They’re three games out of first place, and while there is a lot of games left in the 20-game league schedule, a deep hole is never a good thing.
Indiana (12-3, 3-2) has had a strong start to Mike Woodson’s first season as head coach.
The Hoosiers are coming off back-to-back home wins over Ohio State and Minnesota last week. Trayce Jackson-Davis leads them in scoring at 19.4 points per game. Race Thompson is averaging 10.7 points.
“It's a team that really competes defensively,” McCaffery said. “Offensively, they're focused a lot on Trayce, but there is a lot of other guys, they have a lot other weapons. (Parker) Stewart can hit threes, (Miller) Kopp is a veteran guy, (Xavier) Johnson, (Rob) Phinisee, you can keep going, (Trey) Galloway.
“Race Thompson is playing at a whole other level. You saw that last year with Race. He really took a big step, became one of the better players in our league, playing great.”
Murray has used the time off to get healthy again. He took a hard fall in the loss to Wisconsin, and McCaffery said Murray had spent a couple of days in the training room getting treatment.
“I think he's feeling a lot better,” McCaffery said.
It’s been the second long break for the Hawkeyes, who had eight days without a game after a three-game losing streak in December. They came back and won four consecutive games after the time off.
This break has been important too, McCaffery said.
“We kind of focused on ourselves a little bit more,” he said. “You have a week off, you're not really jumping to the next game. You're trying to get better at some of the things we thought we didn't do well. We didn't defend or rebound as well as we would've liked, so worked on that.”
Asked if expected a similar resurgence from this break, McCaffery said, “I think there is no question about it, that you have couple days off, you need to come out with energy and play better than we did in the last game. I think we're smart enough to know and understand that.”