IOWA CITY — Iowa’s 88-59 win Saturday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was the perfect opportunity to spread minutes throughout Iowa’s bench.
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery played each of his 11 available scholarship players at least 10 minutes. It wasn’t because he was feeling charitable, however. It was out of necessity.
McCaffery intended to go 10 players deep this year but he extended his rotation to 11 players for the last three games. Each of his bench players offer something different, and McCaffery wants to see more from them in real time.
“It’s the only way they’re going to get better, settle down,” McCaffery said. “I want to be able to put them in against a top-tier team in a one-point game. They’ve got to be able to get out there, make a mistake or two, play through it.”
Gabe Olaseni, a 6-foot-10 sophomore center, was considered a vital backup but averaged just 3 minutes a game in Iowa’ four games previous to Saturday. Freshman guard Pat Ingram was out of the rotation after an early fall foot injury. He since has worked his way into playing time but his minutes have ranged from eight against Wichita State to three against Virginia Tech.
Olaseni has struggled with confidence. Against Western Kentucky he flashed his attributes and exposed his weaknesses in two quick minutes. He blocked a shot and grabbed a rebound but also had a foul, a turnover and a missed shot. He followed that performance two games later against Virginia Tech with two quick fouls in three minutes.
Olaseni had extended playing time against Corpus Christi with 15 minutes, including 10 in the second half. He scored six points and blocked three shots. He hit all four free-throw attempts.
“Good to see Gabe (Saturday),” McCaffery said. “He kind of played through it, got a lot of things done. Little by little, he’s going to gain a lot more confidence.”
McCaffery said he’ll continue to use an 11-player rotation but it’s “something that will manifest itself over time.”
“The uncomfortability is there’s a few players I’d like to play more and sometimes you can’t,” he said. “Ingram deserves a few more minutes. Olaseni, he can’t settle down, and the only way he’s going to settle down is if I give him more minutes. That’s a difficult situation because if he’s not playing well, yo don’t want to give him more minutes.”
One player who won’t see his time decrease is junior Devyn Marble, who averages 31.5 minutes a game. Marble, who leads the team in scoring with 14.5 points a game, said he hasn’t heard his teammates complain about their minutes, although most would like to play more.
“That’s true of any team,” Marble said. “We’re a competitive group of guys. When I came in as a freshman I wanted to play more.”