No. 23 Iowa improved to 8-1 overall with a 98-93 win against Notre Dame on Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The win ended a seven-year slide for Iowa in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge moved the Hawkeyes up to 3-10 all-time in the annual event.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Defense, endurance in short supply. Neither Notre Dame nor Iowa could stop the other’s offense. The Hawkeyes shot 57 percent from the field and 54 percent from 3-point range. Four different times Iowa scored in four or more consecutive trips up the court. Iowa finished the first half with points on seven straight possessions and ended the game by scoring on 10 of 11. Iowa had 20 assists on 33 field goals.
Notre Dame had its own terrific offensive game and shot 51.5 percent for the game. The Irish were 8-of-17 from 3-point range and had 20 assists on 35 baskets.
“Neither one of us could really guard each other; we just couldn’t them for longer periods of time,” Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said. “Every time we played a zone in the first half, Iowa hit a 3.”
“I don’t think either of us played great defense,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “I think both teams were really trying. I think both teams were really competing defensively. Both teams were mixing man and zone. Both teams have drivers and shooters. … It’s just really talented players going at it. Sometimes it’s hard to stop people.”
Part of Iowa’s issues could rest with exhaustion. The Hawkeyes played four games in six days, three of which were in the Bahamas and two went into overtime. A grueling 12-hour flight and travel delay on Sunday brought the Hawkeyes to Cedar Rapids at 3:30 p.m. after leaving Nassau around 3 a.m. The team didn’t practice Sunday and needed to hit the books as well.
“Without a doubt that’s the worst travel day I’ve been involved in in 31 years,” McCaffery said. “I’ve never been through anything like that.
“Quite honestly, I was the only one complaining. No one player complained.”
Iowa junior Aaron White backed up his coach’s account.
“It was a heck of a travel day for us,” he said. “Nobody complained. You didn’t hear any negative about why it took so long to get home. No negativity.”
White said he was exhausted after the game but, “Obviously on national TV, you’ve got a crowd like that, you’re not going to get tired.”
2.3-point prowess? Iowa is reversing the narrative that it can’t shoot from 3-point range. The Hawkeyes ranked 11th in Big Ten 3-point shooting last year and struggled in their first two games. But over the last three, Iowa is hitting from the perimeter with regularity.
The Hawkeyes have knocked down 27 of 53 3-point shots (51 percent) from 3-point range against UTEP (9 of 16), Villanova (11 of 24) and Notre Dame (7 of 13). Since the first two games, the fewest Iowa hit in a game was six twice.
“Everyone was dogging us for our 3-point shooting and I look up and we shoot 51 percent from 3,” White said. “I hope people aren’t writing how we can’t shoot the 3 anymore. We’ve got a bunch of shooters on the team, we’ve got a bunch of playmakers. We showed that tonight. We attacked their zone, we attacked their man. It was just a great game by both sides.”
3. Where’s Olaseni? After an impressive first half on offense against the Irish, Iowa junior center Gabe Olaseni was silenced in the second half. Olaseni played 10 minutes in the first half and scored nine points, grabbed five rebounds, dished two assists and had a block. He did struggle defensively against Notre Dame counterpart Garrick Sherman but in a three-minute span, Olaseni was the best player on the floor.
With 14:42 left in the first half, Olaseni scored on a putback from a Devyn Marble miss. The following possession he scored after his own miss and then dished to Zach McCabe, who scored. He completed the span two trips later with a jumper. Olaseni had a hand in eight of Iowa’s 10 points and elevated the Hawkeyes from a 9-9 tie to a 19-16 lead.
But Olaseni played only one minute in the second half. He was whistled for two quick fouls on consecutive possessions and then went straight to the bench. He didn’t play again, something McCaffery didn’t realize until after the game.
“That was a mistake on my part,” McCaffery said. “I feel bad about that actually. He deserved to go back in.”
Extra thought: Iowa’s marketing department routinely gets slammed for for its ideas that don’t work, such as red, white and blue pom poms when the football team plays Wisconsin. But the “Blackout” theme Tuesday worked well enough that Iowa should consider it on a routine, if not permanent, basis.
The fans were into it, the players were into it and taking the court to “Back in Black” brought out a football-type reaction from the sold-out crowd. It might be worth exploring making black the home color (like the Dallas Cowboys wear white jerseys at home).
“The whole ‘Blackout’ thing was real creative,” Marble said. “I tip my hat off to whoever came up with it. That definitely gave it a little more fun, an edge to it.”