1. Oglesby the difference maker. No player received more negative feedback last year than Iowa guard Josh Oglesby, who shot 26.9 percent from 3-point range. But the junior from Cedar Rapids has reversed his fortune completely.
Oglesby has drilled 12 of 20 3-point attempts (60 percent) this year, and he's altered the outcome of Iowa's last two games with big shots. Sunday, Oglesby had his most impressive performance. He made his first four 3-point attempts, including two in a 29-second span late in the first half. Those 3-pointers -- the second with 3 seconds left in the half -- chopped a Minnesota lead from eight points to two.
All five of Oglesby's 3-pointers arrived at critical junctures and his first four 3-pointers came when Iowa trailed Minnesota. Oglesby's first 3-pointer from the top of the key gave Iowa an 11-9 lead early in the first half. His second from the left wing brought Iowa within one point at 25-24. His third (right corner) and fourth (where he circled around a defender and shot from the left wing) were dramatic (as noted above). His final 3-pointer took the Hawkeyes' tepid six-point advantage to nine points with 5:35 left in the game.
It's a remarkable turnaround for a player who struggled mightily last year and suffered a broken right foot in early November. He didn't play his first game until Dec. 22. There was even serious talk that Oglesby should red-shirt. Confidence and an improved mindset are among the factors why the 6-foot-5 Oglesby has been successful.
"Well, I think it's a combination of things," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "No. 1, he is more experienced. He's healthy now. He's been through it. But he's a talented player. I mean, I've been saying that over and over. His defense (Sunday) was nothing short of spectacular. It was the same thing against Ohio State. We kind of look at him and say, 'OK, is Josh hitting 3s,' and then gauge him on that only. I don't. He's not a mistake maker. He defends, gets a huge offensive rebound. He just has an incredible feel and sense of how to play."
"Thereís a lot of people talking about me, doubting me and stuff like that," Oglesby said. "Iím just going to keep working hard and playing and hopefully keep winning."
Oglesby secured a late rebound off a Devyn Marble missed 3-point attempt and initially considered going up for the putback. Instead he brought it back out and killed time off the clock. Perhaps his most underrated play didn't end up in the stat sheet. With Iowa leading 56-53, Oglesby passed up a shot and instead made a terrific pass down low to Gabe Olaseni, who put the ball up but was fouled. The shot didn't fall and Olaseni went to the free-throw line, so Oglesby didn't get the assist. But he deserved one.
2. Efficient Gesell. It was a little surprising when McCaffery flipped Mike Gesell back to point guard and moved Marble off the ball entering the third game this year. Marble excelled last year at the point when Gesell suffered a strained foot, and all offseason the team geared its offense around Marble.
But McCaffery had his reasons, and based on the numbers, he has his results. Gesell leads the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.2. In 18 games he has 21 turnovers and 68 assists. He's averaging 7.1 points a game in 21.8 minutes of action. It's been a constant blend of restraint and loosening the reins on Gesell that seems to have worked the last few games.
"I think heís got the ability to be a really special player," McCaffery said. " Heís one of those guys, heís so conscientious and such a team guy, he wanted to run the offense and get his teammates involved and wanted us to win. But what Iíve tried to get him to understand is we need him to be more aggressive, we need him to be a scorer, we need him to have that mentality for us to be the best team we can be. Then weíll have a better chance to win."
Gesell's tough moments have been high-profile. He missed a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left at Iowa State that would have given the Hawkeyes the lead. He was perhaps too aggressive at Wisconsin, where he was 3-of-12 and missed a pair of late 3-pointers. But his aggressiveness paid off late in the first half Sunday.
With Minnesota leading by 10, Gesell drove strong to the hoop, scored and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but two possessions later, he found Oglesby for an open 3-pointer at the end of the half to close out an 8-0 run.
"My teammates all have confidence in me, and the coaches do, too," Gesell said. "Itís tough to not be confident in yourself when everyone around you has confidence. So itís awesome to play with guys like that, and I love playing with this coaching staff. It makes it a lot easier."
3. Making Marble money. Gesell's emergence has freed up Marble during the game, but the senior still moves to the point at various junctures. Marble ran the show late at Ohio State, but he was effective off the ball to open the second half against Minnesota.
Marble, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, broke off a set play and drove to the basket for a score and a foul on Iowa's first possession after halftime. Then Iowa scored on its next five possessions -- nine straight when counting the end of the first half. Marble drilled a pair of 3-pointers in the run and scored nine points in the first 2 minutes, 8 seconds of the second half.
McCaffery touted Marble's abilities at the two as making the move worthwhile. Marble ranks eighth overall in Big Ten scoring at 16.8 points a game, but in league-only games, he's averaging 19.0 -- just one point shy of Indiana's Yogi Ferrell for first.
"I think itís been great for Dev because we move him off the ball and we get him the ball," McCaffery said. "He likes that, and heís really good in that role. I think it was better for Mike to have it. We essentially recruited him to be that guy, and then we moved him off the ball, which he willingly accepted, Not a lot of guys would do that. He said whatever you need me to do Iíll do.
"As we continue to evaluate it, we just felt like we needed to get Dev shots. We needed to get him the ball in different locations and we need to put the ball in Mikeís hands and let him engineer it. ... The other thing when itís all said and done, they both can still score. They both can shoot 3s, they both can drive it. They both have a pull-up game. Theyíre both tough to guard."
Extra point: Senior co-captain Zach McCabe entered the game in a shooting funk after an 0 for 8 performance at Ohio State. He missed his first three shots Sunday and clearly was pressing.
Then it started to come together for McCabe. With Iowa leading 57-53, McCabe drove to the basket and drew a foul by Minnesota's Joey King. McCabe sank the basket and ensuing free throw to put Iowa up 60-53.
Late in garbage time with Iowa leading by 19, McCabe drilled a 3-pointer inside of 2 minutes remaining. He grinned from ear to ear and it appears his confidence is back.
Overall, it was a good day for McCabe. Along with eight points (he had more two free throws), he pulled down five rebounds, dished three assists, grabbed three steals and had no turnovers in 22 minutes.