Jan. 28, 2004
The Hawkeyes have two goals when they take on Michigan at 6 o’clock tonight inside Crisler Arena: go inside-outside on offense and focus on the steal when playing defense.
Enter guards Brody Boyd and Jeff Horner.
Boyd leads the Big Ten with 15 steals on the season, an average of three a game. Boyd capitalizes on his 5-foot-11 frame and superior quickness inside against tall and lanky forwards.
“I get pretty excited when they get into the posts and start dribbling it,” said Boyd. “That’s a strength of mine.”
“Tall and lanky” seems to be the best descriptor for the Michigan squad.
Courtney Sims, a freshman forward from Roslindale, MA., weighs in at 230 pounds, but measures at 6-11. Senior forward Bernard Robinson Jr. weighs 210 and is 6-6. Even guards get into the act – Daniel Horton is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and Dion Harris comes in at 6-4, 200-pounds.
“They have big, tall lanky guards and their inside game is the same way,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. “It all stems on just how Horton’s doing. Our prep starts with him, but it doesn’t finish there because Robinson is extremely talented.
“It’s a unique team,” Alford added. “I think they have five lefties, so you don’t see that many lefties on one team. But they’re very athletic, and that’s the concern.”
Alford went on to say that the Wolverines (11-5 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) matched Illinois’ athleticism and size, which is concerning as the Hawkeyes fell at Champaign on Jan. 17, 88-82, in the final minutes, when the Illini could dominate the closing as Iowa was drained of manpower and energy with a reduced lineup.
But the team agrees that going inside and then moving outside, to benefit from improved perimeter shooting from Boyd and Horner, will be the key to success. The team will also have to build a considerable lead early, as OSU managed 22 points in the final five minutes last Saturday.
“All week we’ve talked about going inside out,” Boyd said. “We’re going to have to do that against Michigan. They’re a big team, but there are going to be some wide open shots. It’s going to be a strength of ours to go inside and then out, because that’s going to open up some looks.”
“All week we’ve talked about going inside out. We’re going to have to do that against Michigan. They’re a big team, but there are going to be some wide open shots. It’s going to be a strength of ours to go inside and then out, because that’s going to open up some looks.”
Senior guard Brody Boyd
“We have to go inside outside,” said Horner. “I think we gave up 88 points against Illinois and we gave up a lot of points against ISU. We definitely have to step things up on the defensive end and keep the offense going.”
No doubt Iowa’s offense has Michigan worried. The Hawkeyes (10-6, 3-2) lead Michigan in every offensive conference statistic, losing out by 1.7 points in only the scoring margin category.
“We’ve had so much thrown at us in the last three weeks, we know who’s here now, we know what the team looks like and the guys have just done an outstanding job of working and competing,” Alford said. “I really think with all the distractions the past few weeks that we’ve gotten better in a lot of areas. We have to do a better job of closing out games, though, because I think our guys have done a lot of good things up until that point.”
While Iowa is going to working on steals, it’s going to have to beat Michigan at its own game.
The Wolverines lead the conference in steals and blocked shots. They have 89 blocks on the season, an average of 5.56 a game. And they have 131 steals, an 8.19 average per game. Iowa is ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten with 123 steals – 7.69 a game on average.
But unsurprisingly, the game will come down to how well the guards – Iowa’s primary weapon – can play in tonight’s match-up.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com