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Finding Things to be Thankful for with the Iowa Hawkeyes at the Advocare Invitational

The men's basketball squad had some negative déjà vu against Dayton and Notre Dame in Mickey Mouse's backyard .

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I'll go ahead and eat some crow for jumping the gun on this Iowa basketball team last weekend. I realize now that I let my "Iowa High" from the football team get the best of me (UNDEFEATED, THOOOOOO), ultimately blinding my eyes to some of the major flaws that both Dayton and Notre Dame took advantage of this past Thursday and Friday. The typical defensive lapses, long offensive droughts, inability to rebound, not getting to the free throw line, not closing out close games and allowing guards to turn the corner and wreak havoc in the paint were all present in Orlando.

So stop me if you've seen this all before. These are the same things that plagued Iowa last year and for a major part of the McCaffery era. But that was why I got so excited and started chugging the Kool Aid way too early, because it seemed like this team wasn't going to have this issue with this veteran lineup. Against Marquette the team defense led into their offense, but in Orlando the defense seemed to be predicated on how well the ball is falling into the hoop on the other end. And that could be a big issue going forward.

Almost as big of an issue as Iowa's interior defense without Adam Woodbury in the lineup (queue up Sarah McLachlan's I Will Remember You and a picture of Gabe Olaseni).

But being that Thanksgiving was Thursday and Iowa Football is undefeated, let's give thanks for a couple things that Iowa did will over the Holiday week:

  • 13-0 run against Dayton: This Iowa basketball team can play with anybody in the nation offensively when they are on. With 8:15 left in the game, not only did Iowa plug the giant leaking hole in their defense (of which Scootchie Smith, Charles Cooke and Kyle Davis took advantage of for most of the game), but they played some of the best offensive basketball I've seen from them this season. Facing a deficit of ten points (69-59), the Hawkeyes cranked out a 13-0 run to take a three point lead with a little over three minutes left. They moved the ball around the court, found the openings in the Dayton defense and nailed shot after critical shot. Mike Gesell, Brady Ellingson, Peter Jok, Jarrod Uthoff, Nicholas Baer and Anthony Clemmons showed some major onions during those five minutes and having a squad that doesn't just lay down and die, keeps that glimmer of hope I had last week alive.
  • They could've/should've beat Dayton: I know I'm being a bitter berry here, but Anthony Clemmons stripped that ball with :50 seconds left in the game at the most critical junction of the game. But instead, the officials called one of their 43 total fouls for the game, sent Charles Cooke to the line -- who promptly knocked down both free throws -- and that was the ball game. I know it doesn't come down to one bad call because there was 40 minutes of bad stretches of basketball for the Hawkeyes, but that officiating crew needs to watch this film because there were more than a handful of calls that were debatable at best.
  • 16-0 run against Notre Dame: Again, offensively, this team is talented, having gone on another huge run early in the second half against Notre Dame. Down 15 with almost 16 minutes and some change on the game clock, Adam Woodbury had his best offensive stretch of the season, dumping in six of his fourteen total points (10 total in the second half) along with some help from long distance from Clemmons and Jok. Woody picked up two fouls early in that contest, but remained engaged and was a giant source of energy for Iowa; something Iowa needs more of.
  • Brady Ellingson against Dayton: In his only 12 total minutes of playing time against the Flyers, Ellingson came off the bench and was a spark plug -- especially in the second half -- going 3-5 from three point land. If he can continue to come off the bench and throw in points when the Hawkeyes are in a summer time drought, his value will continue to sky rocket. He's shown the ability to be that three point threat Hawkeyes fans dreamed Josh Oglesby and Devan Bawinkel would be.
  • Mike Gesell: Mike Gesell had a rough start to the Dayton game after getting into foul trouble and riding the pine. But when he came back in the second half, his play helped Iowa crack into the Flyers lead. He is a difference maker for the Hawkeyes regardless of whether or not he is dropping dimes and scoring points or just getting the offense where it needs to be. Against Notre Dame he did both, contributing 14 points and nine assists while only turning the ball over once. If basketball logged Hockey Assists, he'd be surely leading the Big Ten. His play has been extremely impressive in Iowa's first five games.
Happy belated Thanksgiving friends.