BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Iowa shuffled its starting lineup Sunday for the first time since early December, and the results were mixed in a 103-89 loss to Indiana.
Freshman forward Aaron White earned his first career start, and senior point guard Bryce Cartwright returned as a starter since the team’s Dec. 3 game at Brown. After struggling for much of the Big Ten season, sophomore forward Melsahn Basabe came off the bench for the first time in career. Junior wing Eric May did not start for the first time this season.
“I made that move because I thought it would help both Melsahn and Eric,” McCaffery said. “I thought it would help our team a little bit if we brought Melsahn off the bench, and I thought he was OK. He had six (points) and three (rebounds) in 13 minutes. He got into foul trouble. He had a dunk early, a dunk late.
“Eric’s back has been bothering him a little bit. I don’t think you’re seeing the explosion from him. I just thought if we’re going to run the break, put (Devyn) Marble on the wing and put (Matt) Gatens out there and let’s run.
“Bryce has played well against these guys so I thought it was a good time.”
Cartwright said he moved to the starting lineup in practice after Iowa 79-73 loss to Nebraska last week.
“I think I start better starting off the game,” Cartwright said.
Cartwright scored eight points and dished eight assists in 25 minutes against Indiana, offensive numbers that McCaffery wants from him. But Cartwright also had six turnovers, about double what McCaffery expected.
White entered the game averaging 9.7 points and 19.6 minutes a game. He scored nine points in 23 minutes. May had one rebound and one turnovers in five minutes.
“I’ll probably keep it that way,” McCaffery said.
Iowa’s offensive tempo was faster with Cartwright at the point, and the Hawkeyes scored at will. Iowa shot 63 percent for the game and nearly 80 percent in the second half. Iowa’s scoring output was the team’s most in a Big Ten road game since Feb. 7, 2007 in a 91-78 win at Minnesota.
But Iowa (11-11, 3-6 Big Ten) also gave up the most points in a Big Ten game since 2008 and generated few defensive stops. In a pivotal stretch late in the first half, Indiana scored on 10 straight scoring possessions to extend a 32-31 lead to 54-37 at halftime.
“Clearly it comes down to a matter of toughness,” McCaffery said. “We lack that right now. I don’t like saying that, but we don’t have the toughness necessary to contend in this league. Somehow it’s incumbent upon me and my staff to get on guys, not only to be able to execute fundamentally, but to be more physical, be tougher and do it more consistently.
“At times we have been tough. At times we have shown tremendous defensive capability. But for the most part it has not been on a consistent basis.”
Iowa’s best defensive effort came in a 64-62 win at Minnesota on Jan. 4. Iowa held the Gophers to 37.5 percent from the floor in the second half. Iowa plays the Gophers again, this time at home, on Wednesday night.