George Fant was once a recruiting target for Iowa’s basketball staff. Today, they’ll be trying to keep him in check.
Fant is Western Kentucky’s third-leading scorer and top rebounder heading into today’s 8:30 p.m. game against the Hawkeyes at the Cancun Challenge in Cancun, Mexico.
The 6-foot-6 forward, averaging 12.3 points and 8.3 rebounds, was a sophomore at Warren Central High School in Bowling Green, Ky., when former Iowa coach Todd Lickliter and assistant LaVall Jordan started to recruit him.
Lickliter’s successor, Fran McCaffery, continued to recruit Fant in the fall of 2010. Fant visited Iowa, but selected the hometown Hilltoppers over the Hawkeyes and Penn State.
Fant played a role in one of college basketball’s best stories in 2011-12. Western Kentucky fired head coach Ken McDonald in January, and named Ray Harper interim coach. The Hilltoppers entered the Sun Belt Conference Tournament with an 11-18 record, but won four games in four days to get the league’s automatic NCAA berth.
Western Kentucky then set an NCAA Tournament record for biggest comeback in the final five minutes. Trailing Mississippi Valley State by 16 points with 4:51 to go, the Hilltoppers rallied to win 59-58.
Western Kentucky lost to top-ranked and eventual national champion Kentucky in the second round, 81-66.
Fant is one of four
starters returning from that team. Harper also got the head coaching job on a permanent basis.
Two more returning starters, guards T.J. Price and Jamal Crook, both scored a career-high 26 points in Western Kentucky’s 92-81 victory over Western Carolina on Saturday to improve to 2-1.
“Western Kentucky is one of the winningest programs in college basketball history,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “They’ve got really good players. They’re athletic. We’ll be ready for them. We’ll have to be.”
Iowa (4-0) is fresh off a Houdini act, rallying from 23 points down in the first half and a 38-18 deficit at halftime to defeat Gardner-Webb on Saturday, 65-56. The Hawkeyes relied on something new and different, defense, to come back.
“We allowed 18 points the second half,” Iowa forward Aaron White said. “Last year we just would have tried to put 60 on them in the second half.”
Iowa and Western Kentucky meet in one semifinal of the Riviera Division. DePaul and Wichita State meet in the other semifinal. The winners play at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. The losers meet at 6 p.m.
“We’re going to play two good teams, no matter what,” Iowa forward Zach McCabe said. “We need to have the right mindset. Yes, you’re in a sunny, warm environment. Everything is supposed to be happy-go-lucky stuff. But we need to win games.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball