Iowa coach Fran McCaffery believes his team has returned to form defensively. It would appear to be good timing with a matchup against its in-state rival on the horizon.
Before playing at high-scoring Iowa State later in the week, the 23rd-ranked Hawkeyes will try to avoid overlooking Fairleigh Dickinson on Monday night in the first meeting between the schools.
Iowa (9-1) allowed an average of 57.1 points on 32.7 percent shooting during its 7-0 start, but gave up a combined 165 in regulation and a 47.3 field-goal percentage while splitting its next two games.
Those struggles continued Saturday in Des Moines when Drake shot 62 percent from the floor in the first 15 minutes and hit eight 3-pointers en route to a 40-39 lead in the Big Four Classic.
The Hawkeyes, however, tightened things up with a 10-0 run to take a 49-40 lead into intermission. They went on to hold the Bulldogs to nine field goals and 26 points in the second half en route to an 83-66 victory.
"That was a key part of the game, that run," McCaffery told the team's official website. "We were working hard and they were executing and got some clean looks at 3. ... Our defense was substantially better in the second half in defending ball screens and contesting looks."
Melsahn Basabe led the Hawkeyes with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting with eight rebounds, while Roy Devyn Marble and Peter Jok scored 14 apiece. Marble, averaging a team-high 16.5 points, is second among Big Ten players with 2.4 steals per game.
The Hawkeyes rank in the nation's top 10 in points (89.3) and assists (17.9) per game, as well as in scoring margin (plus-24.6).
Dating to last season, they've won 15 straight at home by an average of 20.2 points. Iowa also seeks its 22nd consecutive home win against non-conference opponents and 25th in a row there against unranked foes.
Despite their recent issues, the Hawkeyes still have the nation's fourth-ranked field goal percentage defense (36.4). They should be able to stay on track against Fairleigh Dickinson, which has averaged 58.3 points and shot 42.4 percent over its last three games.
The Knights (3-8) hit on just 37.3 percent of their shots and missed 12 of 15 from 3-point range in a 77-55 loss at Princeton on Saturday. They've dropped five of seven on the road, winning at Rutgers and Seton Hall but losing by 50 points at No. 2 Arizona.
"I am very proud of how hard our team competes night in and night out versus this high-level competition," coach Greg Herenda told the team's official website. "Now we pack our bags and head to Iowa to take on another national power. I am confident that these experiences will only help us be prepared for March."
Iowa will have to keep an eye on Sidney Sanders Jr., who leads Fairleigh Dickinson with 18.9 points per game. The senior guard, who scored a game-high 23 in Saturday's loss, seeks his fifth straight 20-point game.
The Knights figure to have their hands full with the Hawkeyes on the boards. While Fairleigh Dickinson has a minus-10.1 rebounding margin, Iowa ranks second among Big Ten teams with a plus-8.9 mark.
The Hawkeyes hope to take care of business before playing on the road Friday against a ranked Iowa State team in one of the most highly-anticipated matchups in the history of the rivalry.
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