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Iowa’s first test a rocky reality check

[ 6 ] November 20, 2011 |

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery

This was to be Iowa’s first real test, a barometer to measure the progress the program has made in Fran McCaffery’s second season as Hawkeye basketball coach.

Creighton 82, Iowa 59.  One step forward, two steps back.

After devouring  a dessert plate of Chicago State, North Carolina A. and T. and Northern Illinois by an average of better than 30 points a game, Creighton was more than the Hawkeyes could handle.

“We’re a Big Ten team,” Iowa forward Melsahn Basabe said when asked about the three blowout victories to start the season. “You’re supposed to beat all those teams by 40 to 50 points. We’re supposed to beat them by more, honestly. Think about it. You’re supposed to kill teams like that. It gets tougher. We’re in the Big Ten. That was a Missouri Valley team. Granted, I think they might be Top 25. But it can get tougher than Creighton. It could be a team with more athletes than Creighton, who are just as skilled. Michigan State, Ohio State, those guys have more skill than Creighton or more skill but higher athleticism. Then what are you going to do? It ain’t gonna get no easier. We got to improve.”

Originally, Iowa was supposed to play Nebraska in Sunday’s Dale Howard Classic. But with the Cornhuskers joining the Big Ten this season, it was time to look for another team in the five-team, four-game exempt event. Creighton, the preseason pick to win the MVC, was more than the Hawkeyes bargained for.

And that was much to the dismay of most of the crowd of 12,746, an estimated 70 percent Iowa fans. As the Bluejays’ lead kept growing, those fans had red faces to go their black-and-gold clothing.

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t show a little bit better effort and more of a game,” Iowa senior Matt Gatens said. “I know we can play with those guys. It’s just too bad we didn’t come out and do it. You only get one shot. We appreciate the fans coming out.  It was a great crowd and it was a lot of fun playing in front of them, but you definitely wish you could have done a little better.”

Iowa’s Fran McCaffery was coaching his second game in Des Moines. Iowa beat Drake at the Knapp Center last season, 59-52.

But the numbers weren’t as kind this time. Creighton, 4-0, led by as many as 33 points. The Bluejays outscored Iowa in the paint, 40-16, and in second-chance points, 18-3. Iowa  had scored at least 88 points in its first three games.

McCaffery liked the venue Sunday. That was about it.

“I thought the crowd was fabulous, a great atmosphere,” McCaffery said. “I’m very thankful to the Hawk fans for the way they showed up in force and supported us. This is a great venue. It’s an NBA arena as far as I’m concerned. I’m pleased with that. I’m not pleased with the game itself.”

Creighton coach Greg McDermott, now 6-4 against Iowa including his previous stops at Northern Iowa and Iowa State, said the fact that his team played a road game at Alabama-Birmingham Wednesday (a 70-60 victory) helped prepare them for Sunday’s game.

“I certainly think our game at UAB on Wednesday really paid dividends for us,” McDermott said. “We had gone and played a quality opponent on the road and our guys had a sense of what to expect. I think that certainly gave us an advantage.”

Wells Fargo Arena is where Iowa’s Eric May made a 35-footer at the buzzer to let his Dubuque Wahlert team beat Harlan, 70-67, in the 2008 State Class 3-A title game. Sunday was a wake-up call for May and his teammates that there’s a lot of work to be done.

“It shows us that you’ve got to bring it every night,” May said. “Coming in we knew Creighton was a really good team. We just came out way too slow and sluggish. We can’t come into a game like that.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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