Iowa CITY, Iowa - Following an embarrassing loss to Michigan over the weekend, Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery questioned his team's toughness on Tuesday. He named names.
"Let's say, for example, the two biggest culprits are your two leading scorers, which is arguably what the case was in our last game," McCaffery said. "That's a dilemma. When Marble and White are struggling defensively, we still have to score."
After jumping out to a 7-0 lead and playing step for step with the No. 2 Wolverines for 15 minutes on Sunday, Iowa folded in a 95-67 defeat. Michigan shot 58 percent from the floor in large part because the Hawkeyes' defense put up very little resistance.
"That game was very reminiscent of our losses last year if you think about it," McCaffery said. "You look at the percentages. Well over 50% from the field. Well over 45% from three. Got pounded on the glass. If you give up those numbers, you're going to lose, I don't care who you play, unless you shoot 78%. It makes it impossible."
Perhaps McCaffery calling out Marble and White is a motivational tactic. They're arguable the team's most talented players and their poor performances on defense in Ann Arbor may have set the tone for a team that starts three freshmen in addition to them.
"(White) wasn't as physical," McCaffery said. "He wasn't moving the way he normally was. He wasn't running back. He wasn't engaged. You're playing the second-ranked team in the country on the road, it's a total engagement game. You have to sprint back, turn and face the ball…You can't try to jog back and find your man because while you're finding him, they're scoring."
McCaffery followed up his White critique by adding that he was not the only guilty party in Iowa's transition defense. The coach said all of the warts were exposed during Monday's hour-long film session, which took about double the normal time usually required to review it.
"The toughest part was that we were playing with them for 15 minutes, the momentum was going great and it just kind of fell apart and we didn't fight back with the punch they gave us to end the first half," White said.
The game was tied at 29 before Michigan closed the first half on a 17-6 run. The Wolverines came out of the intermission with a 12-5 spurt and Iowa never challenged them the rest of the way. McCaffery benched his starters early in the second half.
The coach said the toughness his team lacked was not only physical in nature.
"I think 'toughness' is defined in more ways than not banging people, this is mental toughness,"McCaffery said. "It's understanding how you carry out the game plan."
Iowa's resolve likely will be tested on Thursday when it plays host to No. 18 Michigan State (6 p.m. CT, ESPN2). The Hawkeyes face an 0-3 start in the Big Ten with a loss.
"Once you get into this league, I don't know that it matters," McCaffery said. "I mean, the next game, no matter who it is, is going to be a really good team. Anything short of our best, we're not going to win. We're not good enough to beat anybody in this league with anything less than (maximum effort).
"It doesn't matter that it's Michigan State, in my opinion."
White said the players met by themselves on Monday.
"I would describe it as don't jump to any conclusions or don't think the world is ending because of a little losing streak," he said of the gathering. "It's a long season, a lot of winnable games. This conference is tough. We're learning that early. I just wanted to get them together to keep focused, to keep playing for one another and having fun with the game."
TIP-INS: Iowa sports information said there are about 3,500 tickets remaining for Thursday's game…Melsahn Basabe said he's not 100 percent but injuries to both of his ankles are improving with treatment from trainers…The Hawkeyes hit the road again this weekend with a Sunday game at Northwestern (4:30 p.m. CT, ESPNU)