DES MOINES — Drake Coach Ray Giacoletti walked into his postgame press conference and matter of factly put Iowa on par with some of the nation’s best teams.
The No. 23 Hawkeyes (9-1) drilled Giacoletti’s Bulldogs 83-66 at Wells Fargo Arena and the long-time coach just shook his head in amazement with what he just watched.
“They’re good, guys,” said Giacoletti, who previously coached Utah to the Sweet Sixteen and assisted Gonzaga the last six seasons before taking over at Drake. “They’re a good basketball team. There’s a reason why they played so well down in the Bahamas. They’re 10 deep. They come in at you in waves.”
The Bulldogs (6-2) competed with Iowa for 18 minutes and knocked down 7 of their first 11 3-pointers. But when the Hawkeyes stepped on the gas pedal of its transition offense, the Bulldogs were left in eating the fumes.
It didn’t matter who ran the fast break, Iowa was cruising. Officially, Iowa’s fast-break points were modest at eight. Unofficially, it wreaked havoc on Drake’s defense.
“Their transition offense is as good as I’ve seen in a long time,” Giacoletti said. “We played Derek Rose when he was at Memphis. That transition was staggering to watch in person. But Iowa’s is a little bit different because Iowa has four different guys that push it. Memphis in those years, Rose pushed it every time. One through four for Iowa can push it. It makes it really tough that way.
“We sent three guys back. We normally just sent two back. You send somebody back to stop the ball and you put somebody in the hole. We tried to send our three-man back and just with four different guys that can push it, it really causes confusion in transition defense. If you don’t talk and everybody’s not aware of what’s going on, they can make you pay.”
Iowa’s transition ultimately crushed Drake in the half-court. The Hawkeyes outscored the Bulldogs 42-12 in the paint and 29-5 in second-chance points. Iowa’s depth was a huge factor in building a 39-7 advantage in bench points.
“I think we’re really focused on running, and we’re running our lanes and executing,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “But we’re able to utilize different personnel and so — not only are those guys fresh — they present a different set of strengths and weaknesses for the opposition to think about defending in transition. This is a team that, their guards get back, but their bigs don’t get back as much. We felt like we could get down the floor and throw it inside and get it to the rim, get to the bonus, get to the double bonus and we were able to that.”
Iowa hit 22 of 30 free throws, while Drake shot only 10 and made eight. Iowa outrebounded Drake 47-28 and was efficient with only five turnovers. Perhaps making that number even more impressive, Iowa point guard Mike Gesell played only four minutes in the first half because of foul trouble.
Ten games into the season, Iowa is posting impressive numbers. The Hawkeyes rank third nationally in scoring margin (24.6); fourth in field goal percentage (.364), fifth in scoring (89.3), sixth in rebounding (45.2) and seventh in assists (17.9). Iowa now is No. 1 in Sagarin ratings, which ranks teams by victories, strength-of-schedule and margin-of-victory.
“They’re long as ever,” Giacoletti said. “When you’re playing a 6-9 kid at the three-spot you’re really long, you’re an NBA team.”
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