Depth on his team’s roster this season has presented coach Fran McCaffery with one luxury he did not have during his first two seasons at Iowa.
“We can come at people from a lot of different directions,” forward Aaron White said. “There’s no shortage of shooters here.”
That has led to more than a 9-2 start to the season. It has made the Hawkeyes a more difficult team to defend.
As Iowa works toward today’s 8 p.m. game against South Carolina State, nine Hawkeyes have had at least one double-digit scoring performance and seven players average more than 5.5 points per game.
“It has been different people on different nights, and the beauty of that is that it makes us harder to prepare for,” McCaffery said Tuesday. “Opponents can’t lock in on one guy like they did with (Matt) Gatens last year. That is part of what made what he did last season so amazing.”
Devyn Marble and Mike Gesell were the only Hawkeyes to reach double figures in Saturday’s win over Northern Iowa, but nine players scored in the game and five connected on shots from 3-point range.
“We have a lot of options on this team, a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things,” senior Eric May said. “So far this season, we’ve shown that versatility. We have a lot of different lineup combinations and a lot of them have worked at different times.”
And McCaffery hasn’t been afraid to use them.
Nine Hawkeyes are averaging more than 16 minutes per game, and only one, Marble at 32.4 minutes, averages more than 28.
“We have more weapons and different ways we can go, whether it be motions and sets or defensively,” McCaffery said. “That has made practice more interesting and it makes it interesting moving forward to see how everything is ultimately going to develop.”
McCaffery believes that development continues as the Hawkeyes work toward their Big Ten opener on New Year’s Eve against Indiana.
In nonconference games this week, he wants his team’s focus to be on defensive intensity and on sustaining effort and execution.
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Offensively, Iowa players plan to continue doing what they’ve been doing.
“I wouldn’t want to have to guard us,” Marble said. “We’ve been the type of team that tries to put pressure on defenses a lot of different ways, and I think that is going to continue. We’re going to keep coming at you and coming at you and that makes it tough on people.”
That approach is allowing the Hawkeyes to combat the inconsistencies that come with playing a relatively young team, providing McCaffery with a chance to move on to other lineup combinations.
Against Northern Iowa, starting freshmen Anthony Clemmons and Adam Woodbury combined for one point and saw just 20 minutes of action.
“I’d like to be able to allow a young guy to play through his mistakes, but in a game that was as close as that one, I have other options,” McCaffery said. “I have to go with my options and find the mix that is playing well.”
McCaffery said Clemmons and Woodbury have handled that well.
“They have been very mature and understanding in that aspect and have worked hard in practice the last couple of days,” he said. “They’re great people in terms of character. I have no doubt that they’re going to be bounce back.”