Iowa is winless in December and seeks to halt a three-game skid when it faces Utah State on Saturday on a neutral floor in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The Hawkeyes (7-3) started the season with seven straight victories before their funk began after they prevailed at Virginia on Nov. 28.
Iowa lost to conference foes Purdue and Illinois before the slide got worse with a 73-53 trouncing at the hands of in-state rival Iowa State on Dec. 9.
Utah State (8-3) figures to provide a serious test. The Aggies are thriving under first-year coach Ryan Odom and beat Oklahoma earlier this season.
The lead line on Odom’s resume is he was the coach that guided Maryland-Baltimore Country to a 74-54 whipping of Virginia in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The Retrievers’ victory is the only time a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“Ryan is a terrific coach,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “They’ve got multiple shooters. Everybody understands how to play. It’s an excellent program with a great fan base.”
Utah State won’t know until close to tipoff whether or not it will have star forward Justin Bean, who tweaked an ankle during Wednesday’s 95-80 road victory over Weber State.
“I think Bean will be fine, but we will see how that shakes out,” Odom said.
Bean averages 19.4 points and 11.1 rebounds and is shooting 63.8 percent from the field.
Bean has scored 20 or more points on five occasions but had a season-low two points on 1-of-5 shooting before leaving after 21 minutes against Weber State.
Steven Ashworth stepped up for the Aggies and established career bests of 27 points and seven 3-pointers. Brandon Horvath, a transfer from UMBC, matched his season high of 20 points, and Brock Miller scored a season-best 20 points.
“Bean wasn’t having a typical Bean game,” Odom said. “He did not get a lot of shots in the game. Our other guys stepped up huge for us.”
Utah State held a 40-29 rebounding edge against Weber State and that fact certainly caught the attention of McCaffery.
Iowa was porous on the boards in its last two games, being outrebounded 102-55 in the losses to Illinois and Iowa State.
“Obviously, it’s been addressed,” McCaffery said. “It doesn’t take much to diagnose. You just look at the numbers, they’re right there in front of you. It’s not been good. Everyone that’s out there has to do a better job rebounding.”
Keegan Murray leads Iowa in scoring (22.2) and rebounding (7.9) but he tallied a season-low nine points on 4-of-17 shooting against Iowa State. Murray has six 20-point efforts this season.
Jordan Bohannon scored 17 points against the Cyclones for his fifth double-digit scoring game of the season. However, he has tallied seven or fewer points in the other five games.
One thing the Hawkeyes excel at is taking care of the ball. They are committing just 8.3 turnovers per game while forcing 16.1.
Iowa holds a 2-1 series lead but Utah State won the most recent encounter, 75-62 at the South Padre Invitational on Nov. 24, 2007.
–Field Level Media