Hawkeye defense woeful in Big Ten

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has about a dozen Hawkeyes he can play.

If McCaffery can’t find five of them to play decent Big Ten defense, Iowa is going to be in trouble this season. The depth the Hawkeyes (11-4, 0-2 Big Ten) hope they can lean on this season failed to do them much good last weekend at No. 2 Michigan.

Iowa’s defense fell apart late in the first half, and it only got worse in the second. The Wolverines scored 66 points in the final 23 minutes of a 95-67 win on Sunday.

It was a disheartening performance from a team that nearly took down No. 5 Indiana in its Big Ten opener and McCaffery said it looked worse on film than it did while it was happening. McCaffery has put the onus on his players to shape up ahead of Thursday’s home game against No. 18 Michigan State (12-3, 1-1) or changes could be coming.

“I will never get on a guy for not doing something that he maybe isn’t capable of doing. But you can run back on defense. If you’re on a Division I scholarship, you better run back on defense, and we didn’t do that. That’s really disappointing,” McCaffery said.

Granted, the Hawkeyes play an up-and-down style of offense that tends to lead to high scoring games. Michigan can also rack up points as well as anyone in the country, especially at home.

But what disturbed McCaffery as much as anything was that his two top players, guard Devyn Marble and forward Aaron White, were among the worst culprits.

Michigan shot 58 percent from the floor, had four times as many assists, 24, as turnovers and scored 17 points in the final three minutes of the first half. Michigan guard Trey Burke and forward Glenn Robinson III earned weekly Big Ten honors in large part because they posted double-doubles against the Hawkeyes.

It left McCaffery to wonder if he’s been playing Marble and White too much because of the offense they provide.

The Hawkeyes might have plenty of depth. But they’d also be lost without the scoring punch provided by Marble and White, so it’s not as though Iowa can simply give the duo all the rest they need.

The Hawkeyes were hopeful that they had moved past the nights of porous defense that shaped so much of last season. They’ve no doubt made progress, as their scoring defense is down 8.6 points from a year ago despite the absence of their best defender, Matt Gatens.

But Iowa has allowed 95 points in each of its two true road games, losses to the Wolverines and Virginia Tech.