The Iowa basketball team will get one thing back today.
Head coach Fran McCaffery, suspended for two games for a postgame tirade at Ohio State, will return to the bench for the regular-season finale at Nebraska.
But what the Hawkeyes really need to get back is the offensive rhythm that made them one of the country’s most efficient scoring machines for much of the season. It mysteriously has abandoned them the past few weeks.
They have lost three games in a row, four of the last five, and their offensive struggles reached new depths Thursday in a 65-45 loss at Wisconsin. They shot a season-low 30.5 percent from the field and had their lowest single-game point total in a Big Ten game in eight years.
They have had six consecutive games with sub-par numbers, but they remain confident that the offense will come back.
"We’re a team that has good shooters, and we’re not shooting the ball very well right now," said assistant coach Kirk Speraw, who filled in for McCaffery at Wisconsin. "That’s been a theme here for a little bit. We’ve just got to snap out of it and to continue to grind and find some answers. Somewhere along the line we’re going to start hitting shots again."
The Hawkeyes (21-9, 10-9 Big Ten) all agree that the offensive woes have infected other phases of the game.
It’s difficult to play good defense when the other team continually is getting transition opportunities off missed shots. The rebounding even was affected against Wisconsin as the Hawkeyes were crushed on the boards.
"Making shots makes everything easy on both the offensive and defensive end …," said junior forward Tyler Cook, who had the first scoreless game of his career at Wisconsin.
"I think once our offensive rhythm comes back, then all the other areas of our game will come back as well. It’s not something that I’m overly concerned about. I have full confidence that it’s something we’ll get out of."
The Hawkeyes, who already are locked into the No. 6 seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament, won’t be the only team in today’s matchup that has been in a bit of funk.
Nebraska has lost four straight games and 11 of the last 13. It has lost No. 2 scorer Isaac Copeland for the season to a knee injury and another starter, guard Thomas Allen, sat out Tuesday’s loss to Michigan State with an ankle injury.
The Cornhuskers (15-15, 5-14) are assured of being the 13th seed in the Big Ten tournament and there even have been rumblings that head coach Tim Miles’ job may be in jeopardy.
"Nebraska is another desperate team in the Big Ten," Bohannon said following the Wisconsin loss. "We have to be ready to play, but we just have to stay connected. That’s going to be the main thing going forward the next two days. Just try to stay connected. The best teams in March stay connected for 40 minutes, and we just have to keep trying to do that."
Speraw said getting McCaffery back is a plus, but he doesn’t think that made a big difference in the team’s performance in the past two games.
"Obviously, when you get your head coach back, it’s good. He’s the voice that they’re used to," Speraw said, "but our guys are mature guys. I know we haven’t played very well the last couple of games, but I don’t know that that was a factor."