Iowa basketball: What to take from an unsightly victory

Fans that tuned in to watch the Iowa basketball team take on Illinois last night were treated to a game that could be described as great, good, bad, ugly, and downright embarrassing at times.

Yes it was that kind of night for the Hawkeyes.

Luckily the same team that gave away a 21 point first half lead in seemingly the blink of an eye was also able to get its act together in time to preserve its third place spot in the Big Ten standings. I do however, worry about the health risks potentially posed to any Hawkeye supporters who managed to sit through the entire 40 minutes of action.

With all of that being said, let’s take a look at the broad range of positives and negatives from last night’s Iowa victory:

Scoring droughts 

For some strange reason the Hawkeyes are starting to make a habit of going long stretches without being able to buy a basket.

Against the Illini an excruciating 8:42 of game time passed late in the first half and into the second during which Iowa’s only points came at the free throw line. This inability to make a shot was primarily what allowed Illinois to get back in the game against a far superior Hawkeye squad.

Although they managed to overcome a long drought on Saturday, three separate ones against Michigan State last Tuesday largely cost Iowa the game. It was a minor miracle that the Hawkeyes even had chances to win after suffering three stretches of five-plus minutes without a field goal, including one absurd span of 14:45.

It does say something that Iowa was almost to able to win each of their last two games despite such cold shooting spells, but it cannot be something that continues moving forward.

Olaseni’s continued emergence 

The play of Gabe Olaseni was the biggest reason Iowa notched a win against Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The play of Gabe Olaseni was the biggest reason Iowa notched a win against Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

If you were to pick out the player who made the biggest impact on the game Saturday night it wouldn’t be all that difficult. Gabe Olaseni was THAT good for the Hawkeyes.

The 6-10 junior came off the bench and posted career highs in both points (15) and rebounds (12). It was the London native’s second double-double in seven days, and his infectious energy gave Iowa a gigantic boost on the road.

For maybe the first time in his career Olaseni played starter-type minutes for the Hawkeyes. His 26 minutes nearly doubled that of starting center Adam Woodbury, and quite frankly his production more than warranted it.

Many people like myself have been yearning to see more of Olaseni and less of Woodbury, and after playing him for the majority of the second half it looks as though head coach Fran McCaffery might also be favoring his reserve center more and more.

Marble takes over 

After strangely another scoreless first half performance, senior guard Devyn Marble was big time when Iowa needed him the most.

Marble put in 17 points in the second half, including multiple buckets at crucial junctures. His 3-ball with just over eight minutes to go pulled the Hawkeyes back within two points as Illinois threatened to run away with the game. Then with under two minutes to play and Iowa up by one he nabbed a steal and went coast-to-coast for an and-1 that put Iowa in control for good.

Despite a few recent slow starts Marble has continued to excel in Big Ten play. Iowa will need his production and leadership moving forward as it tries to navigate through the rest of a brutal conference schedule and beyond.