EVANSTON, Ill. — Iowa coach Fran McCaffery likes what center Adam Woodbury brings to the starting lineup, despite the freshman’s recent offensive struggles.
Woodbury has hit just two of his last 11 shots and played a combined 24 minutes the last two games. In a 70-50 win against Northwestern on Sunday, Woodbury missed six of seven attempts. But McCaffery is quick to bring up Woodbury’s other attributes aside from scoring.
“Adam Woodbury had nine rebounds in 12 minutes,” McCaffery said. “It’s not like you can complain about him whatsoever. He missed some shots he normally would make. He’s obviously struggling with that right now. He appears to be a little more tentative in that part of his game. I challenged him directly.”
Woodbury averages 5.6 rebounds a game but he was missing in key moments of Iowa’s three-point loss to Michigan State last Thursday. He had as many turnovers — three — as rebounds. In each of the last two games, Woodbury has played just three minutes in the second half.
“He’s been in foul trouble, and I’ve got other guys to play and I’m playing fresh bodies,” McCaffery said. “He’s been terrific in handling that. He knows he’s really working in practice. He’s making his short ones in practice.”
Woodbury has started all 16 games for Iowa but for now he remains secure in starting position. Off the bench, Iowa has received solid production from veterans Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe, who have combined for 91 starts.
Against Northwestern, Basabe scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in 13 minutes. McCabe scored seven points and pulled down five rebounds in 16 minutes.
“The beautiful thing about bringing experience off the bench and starting freshmen is that you’re doing exactly that,” McCaffery said. “You’re bringing guys off the bench who have been here before. They’ve played in arenas and played against Big Ten competition. The other thing is Zach, Melsahn and Josh (Oglesby) can all score. So we’re bringing experience and scoring off the bench. That helps.”
McCabe started 30 games at center last year, and earned seven starts at forward this season before coming off the bench. Basabe, a junior, started the first 52 games of his career but has suffered four ankle injuries this year. But he has been vital off the bench in Iowa’s last two games, missing only one shot (10 of 11) and totaling 25 points.
“I bring us from one level to another because I’m an extra person,” Basabe said. “It’s not even scoring; it’s just playing well, just playing with energy. I just realize that over the last few games. It’s my responsibility as an older person to bring that because we need it.”
Bringing both players off the bench provides instant energy and helped Iowa improve defensively.
“I think what Melsahn knows is we’re going to get him the same number of minutes regardless,” McCaffery said. “I think they all kind of know that. I think they’ve all of accepted that.”
1. Yeah, it was a must-win. I’m loathe to call any game a “must-win” this early in the season but had Iowa not beaten Northwestern, the pressure would have skyrocketed entering this Saturday’s game against Wisconsin. The Badgers thrive on forcing errors and playing with discipline. It’s likely Iowa would have forced bad shots and bad passes and an 0-5 start would seem likely.
“We’ll move forward from this, learn and this shows what we’re capable of,” Iowa senior Eric May said.
2. Defense was key to Iowa’s win. One week after an abysmal effort at Michigan, Iowa played its second consecutive defensive gem. The Hawkeyes held Northwestern to 19.2 percent from 3-point range and 29.4 percent overall. Iowa out-rebounded Northwestern by 10 and forced nine turnovers.
“We go on the road, 0-3, and played what I think was probably the best defensive performance since I’ve been at Iowa,” McCaffery said. “That’s very encouraging as we move forward.”
3. Iowa wiped away the streaks. Northwestern had beaten Iowa five straight, including four in a row at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Iowa had lost its two games at true road venues and were 0-3 in Big Ten play. All of that faded as Iowa played focused and determined.
“We’ve never beaten Northwestern so we were glad to get a win,” Basabe said. “I was happy about it, everybody played great; we shared the ball . It was a great game, a great win.”