The Iowa men’s basketball team is coming off back-to-back victories over Northern Iowa and Iowa State and now faces a South Carolina State team that lost by 51 points to Missouri on Monday.
It might seem like the recipe for a letdown, which Iowa coach Fran McCaffery addressed Tuesday morning on a teleconference with reporters.
“They ran into a buzz saw last night,” McCaffery said of South Carolina State’s 102-51 loss at Missouri. “Missouri was absolutely relentless, with their defense, with their fastbreak. They are just athletically powerful.”
McCaffery went on to say that 9-1 Missouri is as athletic as any team in the country and he challenged his players to compete with the same level of intensity that the Tigers displayed against South Carolina State, which will bring a 4-7 record into Wednesday’s game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“What we have to understand is we have to play the same way,” McCaffery said. “We have to get after it the same way.
“What was interesting in that game is they’re up 35 (points) and they’re playing like they’re down five. And that’s the mentality that we have to emulate.”
McCaffery said South Carolina State’s dismantling at the hands of Missouri was more a case of what the Tigers did rather than what Bulldogs didn’t do.
“It’s a great learning experience because what you’re going to see is you’re going to see a team come in here on Wednesday night and you’re going to say, `Wow, how did they lose by (51),’” McCaffery said. “Well, they lost by (51) because Missouri won by (51).
“And they’re going to play a lot differently because they have talent. They have shot makers. They have post players. And they have some depth.”
Iowa (9-2) has all those things, too, as evidenced by its performance against the Panthers and Cyclones.
The Hawkeyes defeated Northern Iowa 80-73 this past Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines despite leading scorer Aaron White being held to seven points, which is half below his per-game average.
White only made 1-of-5 field-goal attempts, but his lone basket – a 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 35 seconds remaining – expanded Iowa’s lead to 64-55.
White’s trey was one of 12 that Iowa made against Northern Iowa. It was also just White’s third 3-point basket for the season. The 6-foot-8 sophomore from Strongsville, Ohio has only made 3-of-18 3-point shots this season.
“The three was big not only because it was the only shot I made in the game,” White said. “But my percentages aren’t good this year, which is unbelievable to me because I’m shooting the crap out of the ball in practice.”
Junior swingman Devyn Marble scored a game-high 30 points against Northern Iowa and freshman guard Mike Gesell added a career-high 23 points. Both players also led Iowa with four 3-point baskets apiece.
Iowa had struggled from 3-point range heading into the Northern Iowa game, which was part of the inaugural Big Four Classic.
“I think this is a good game to grow off of and use the momentum and confidence to go into the next one,” Marble said.
As for South Carolina State, it has eight players who average between 13.5 points and 3.6 points per game.
Matthew Hezekiah, a 6-11 junior forward, led the Bulldogs with 14 points and 12 rebounds against Missouri.
McCaffery’s record as the Iowa coach would climb to .500 with a victory on Wednesday. Iowa’s third-year head coach will bring a 38-39 record into the game, which tips off at 8:06 p.m.
Following Wednesday’s game, Iowa will finish the nonconference portion of the schedule against Coppin State on Saturday at home before opening Big Ten play against Indiana on New Year’s Eve at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
ACADEMIC REPORT: McCaffery said Tuesday he was confident that all his players would be in good standing academically heading into the second semester. The Iowa players completed semester exams last week.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball