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Hawkeyes concentrate on self improvement
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Hawkeyes concentrate on self improvement

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No. 23 Wisconsin defeats Iowa 87-78 to win 4th straight

Iowa's Keegan Murray (15) grabs a rebound next to Wisconsin's Tyler Wahl during the first half of the Hawkeyes' 87-78 loss to the Badgers last Thursday. After struggling on the boards, rebounding has been a focus of Iowa practices in the days since.

IOWA CITY — With a week between games, the University of Iowa men's basketball team has had time to look in a mirror.

The Hawkeyes have had a chance to spend practice time since last Thursday’s 87-78 loss at Wisconsin concentrating on their own game before turning their attention to this Thursday’s 8 p.m. home game with Indiana.

"You have a week off, you’re not really jumping to the next game," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Tuesday. "You’re trying to get better at some of the things we thought we didn’t do well. We didn’t defend or rebound as well as we would’ve liked, so we worked on that."

McCaffery sees inconsistencies in the way the Hawkeyes have defended at times, and in each of Iowa’s losses during an 11-4 season, rebounding has been a major issue.

Forward Keegan Murray believes it has been time well spent.

"There were a couple of days of reflection, trying to better ourselves as a team and as individuals," Murray said.

That has included work on defense and rebounding, two areas exploited by the Badgers from start to finish when the Hawkeyes lost for the first time in five games.

Wisconsin started hot and shot 50% from the field, the first time in eight games — since Virginia shot 52.6% — that an opponent had reached 50% from the field.

Iowa was handled on the boards, 43-26, watching the Badgers collect 18 second-chance points off of 15 offensive boards.

"You can’t run your offense if you don’t have the ball," Murray said.

McCaffery sees the rebounding issue as a collective endeavor.

"A lot of the rebounds we're not getting are the long ones, teams shooting a lot of 3s, balls bouncing funny," McCaffery said. "Our guards have to rebound better, our wings have to rebound better."

McCaffery believes increased physicality inside is only part of the solution Iowa needs to embrace as it moves into the second half of the season.

"But when you are struggling rebounding the ball it’s not just the four and five man, it’s everybody," McCaffery said. "We have to be better collectively, which is only going to help us on offense as well."

Improved rebounding is connected with better defense as well.

McCaffery has seen signs of the Hawkeyes’ ability to defend.

"It’s been good at times. It’s not been as consistent as it needs to be," he said.

It all, Murray said, will take a collaborative effort to turn around.

He believes the Hawkeyes have shown the ability and willingness to get that done at times but understands the need for consistency to develop.

"We all need to be better and that’s something we are working on," Murray said.

McCaffery expects that to be apparent when Iowa and Indiana hit the Carver-Hawkeye Arena court on Thursday night.

"You have that couple of days off, you need to come out with energy and play better than we did in the last game. I think we’re smart enough to know and understand that," McCaffery said. "Practice has been good. I expect that to continue."

The week between games has also given the Hawkeyes a chance to heal some minor injuries.

"I think it’s been a good chance to take a couple of days and get healthy," Murray said. "A lot of guys have some little things, been a little dinged up."

Murray was among Hawkeyes dealing with some minor injuries. He took a hard fall during the second half of the Wisconsin game, exiting briefly before returning to finish off a game-high 27-point performance.

"I think it was good for him to have a couple days where he could get in the training room," McCaffery said. "I think he’s feeling a lot better."


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