Archive for November, 2008
Saturday night, all that mattered to the Iowa basketball team was the bottom line and thanks to Cyrus Tate's shoulder-dipping, double-faking strong move to the hoop as time expired, the bottom line looked good to the Hawkeyes. There was more to it than a 65-63 win on the scoreboard over a Kansas State team that is pegged to finish in the second tier of teams in the Big 12. For Iowa, the bottom line was about responding to an ugly 19-point loss the previous night to a talented West Virigina team and the Hawkeyes met that challenge with a collective effort. Nine of the 10 players that got in the game for Iowa contributed points and six contributed five or more. Seven players grabbed rebounds and six dished out assists or had steals. "It was tough to go through the type of loss we went through (Friday), but if we learn from it, it can be beneficial and I think I saw that,'' coach Todd Lickliter said. "Two games, two different outcomes, but equally important lessons to help us grow.''
Iowa's young basketball team endured one of those learning moments Friday night. The Hawkeyes were handled about every way imaginable by an aggressive, physical West Virginia team. It wasn't a surprise. Bob Huggins' teams have been known for that style of play for years. But, as coach Todd Lickliter put it, "It's easy to talk about, scout and explain what it's going to be like but until you get hit with it in a game, it's tough for players ot understand.'' The Mountaineers delivered a message during the first half Friday, forcing 17 turnovers and turning them into 29 points and a 19-point lead at the break. Lickliter liked the fact that Iowa coughed up the ball just four times in the second half. He realizes that the intensity probably wasn't quite the same, but it provides a starting point for a young team to learn. "That's all you can do with one like this,'' sophomore Jake Kelly said. Lickliter is anxious to see how his team responds today against Kansas State, which took Kentucky to the wire early this morning before losing. The Wildcats will present some of the same pressure issues that Iowa dealt with against West Virginia.
Iowa's basketball team winged its way to Las Vegas on Wednesday, but don't expect the Hawkeyes to be spending a lot of time on "The Strip.'' Coach Todd Lickliter has his team staying at a resort on the outskirts of the city, where they will enjoy Thanksgiving together in addition to preparing for Friday's game with West Virginia. Lickliter was a presenter at a coaching clinic held at The Orleans a few years ago, giving him an idea of the venue Iowa will be playing at this weekend. As for the city, Lickliter isn't overly impressed. "It didn't do a whole lot for me, to be honest,'' he said. "It's just a lot of big buildings with bright lights. I wonder if anybody is making any money other than the owners?'' Lickliter believes Iowa's first five games of the season has presented his team with a variety of different looks, something that will benefit the Hawkeyes moving forward. "Every game will be a new challenge, though,'' he said. "It will be very challenging for us in Vegas. We will need to play well, but I think that is going to be the case for our team all season. We need to bring our best every time out and why shouldn't we? There are only so many opportunities to take the court and face an opponent. Why shouldn't the effort be the best?''
The Quad-City Times seats in press row at Carver-Hawkeye Arena are directly behind the visiting radio seats and Sunday's game with Oakland provided the opportunity to listen again to familiar voice. Mario Impemba was handling the play-by-play duties for the Golden Grizzlies' radio broadcast. The gig comes as Impemba is preparing for his ninth year as the play-by-play voice of the Detroit Tigers on Fox Sports Detroit. He's no stranger to these parts, though. Impemba's road to the major leagues included a stop in the Quad-Cities. He was the play-by-play voice of the 1990 Quad-City Angels, a season when the Midwest League club won its most recent league championship.
Oakland basketball coach Greg Kampe was a breath of fresh air during Sunday's postgame news conference at Iowa. Kampe is an old-school coach who isn't afraid to speak his mind. In this age of politcal correctness, Kampe offered a blunt assessment of why his team wasn't able to pull off the upset of the Hawkeyes. He felt a critcal mistake was made by one of his veteran players, Johnathon Jones, when he decided to settle for a 3-point shot instead of taking the ball to the basket and either scoring on a lay-in or drawing contact that would have forced the officials to make a call. In a 53-51 game, the decision came at a critical moment and in Kampe's mind, the junior made the wrong choice. With Iowa director of athletics Gary Barta standing in the back of the room, Kampe was also critical of the cryptic practice facilities that his team worked out in the night before Sunday's game because Carver-Hawkeye wasn't available. The words weren't surprising. Kampe has never failed to mince words. From the mold of Gene Keady, Bob Knight and Jud Heathcote, a generation of coaches who offered accurate, and sometimes brutal assessments of their teams' performances, Kampe speaks his mind. It was a breath of fresh air.
Iowa completed its fall signings Tuesday when Brennan Cougill of Sioux City Heelan signed his letter of intent, joining Dubuque Wahlert's Eric May as players who signed with the Hawkeyes during the NCAA's early signing period. Coach Todd Lickliter said his staff continues to search for the right player to offer the one vacant scholarship Iowa has available at this point for the spring signing period. "We keep looking for those right student athletes,'' is how Lickliter put it during a Wednesday teleconference with beat reporters. Translation: Iowa will fill its last remaining scholarship if it finds a player who is willing to be a good teammate, share the basketball and fits the system. This group of Hawkeye coaches isn't out on a star search. They don't get particularly excited about seeing four or five stars next to a recruit's name from a scouting service. They are more concerned about the fit, how the player blends in with his teammates, how he handles success and failure and how he meshes with talent already a part of the program. They're also looking for Hawkeyes. One of the more interesting comments Iowa assistant LaVall Jordan made during a visit to the Davenport Grid Club in early October was that offers made by Iowa coaches weren't open ended. "We're interested in players who want to be part of our program, not players who are shopping around. We're reasonable, but when we offer a scholarship we expect an answer within a reasonable amount of time,'' Jordan said. "If we don't get that answer, we move on. We want players who deep in their hearts want to be Hawkeyes. As long as we get those players, we'll be in good shape.''
If nothing else, Monday's closer-than-expected 73-67 win over Texas-San Antonio provided Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter with some teaching points that should benefit the Hawkeyes in the long run. The Roadrunners surprised Iowa with a 2-2-1 press, something that a young Iowa team would have been prepared for later in the season but had not spent any time working on during a preseason where the focus admittedly has been on the defensive end of the court. Lickliter took responsibility for that, and spent time outs giving his team a crash course in dealing with the 2-2-1. Still, he believes Iowa could have and should have handled it better, something the Hawkeyes will be able to learn from. "A lot of dealing with the 2-2-1 is guys understanding the driving lanes, understanding where they are at and how they can drive it,'' Lickliter said. "I thought we received the ball at the appropriate side a couple of times and we had a clear driving lane down the side of the court and didn't take it.'' That's something that will be reviewed during film sessions leading to Iowa's trip to The Citadel on Thursday and it is something that will be addressed in practice as the season progresses. It's a teaching point, a valuable lesson that will help this relatively-green Iowa team grow.
Iowa is offering fans a price break on basketball tickets for home games this weekend. Any fans who have a ticket to Iowa's football game Saturday with Purdue will be able to purchase an unlimited number of tickets to Friday's basketball game with Charleston Southern or Monday's home game with Texas-San Antonio for $10 per seat. The deal is available through the Iowa athletic ticket office.
Watching his team play its only exhibition game on television because of a bout with the flu, Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter didn't see anything that added to his ailment Sunday. The second-year Hawkeye coach liked what he saw for the most part during a 59-36 win over Wayne State. He said during a Wednesday news conference that he liked the way his team shared the ball and found good, open shots. He saw a few flaws as well, areas Iowa is trying to shore up this week as it prepares for Friday's regular-season opener with Charleston Southern. The Iowa coach was pleased with what he saw from Jeff Peterson at the point, saying he looked "comfortable'' at the position compared to a year ago when he said most Hawkeyes appeared "anxious'' at times as they learned the system that was being implemented. Lickliter said his lineup remains fluid as Iowa prepares for its opener. Jake Kelly remains day-to-day as he continues to deal with a slightly-fractured bone just above the knuckle on the middle finger of his shooting hand. Kelly was to receive results from another round of X-rays on Wednesday night, but said the level of pain will determine whether or not he is able to go Friday. The injury itself will take 3-to-5 weeks to fully heal, but he expects to return long before that time. Lickliter also announced Wednesday that his son, John, will redshirt this season. The freshman guard from Iowa City High will continue to practice and concentrate on gaining additional strength. Lickliter suggested another possible reason as well. "I think he's figured out that five years of college life might not be so bad, and he might be right,'' Lickliter said, flashing a smile.
A few random thoughts following a Sunday afternoon of hoops of Carver-Hawkeye Arena: * Don't read a lot into the starting five that Iowa put on the floor against Wayne State. The Hawkeyes started three freshmen -- Anthony Tucker, Matt Gatens and Aaron Fuller -- along with sophomore Jeff Peterson at the point and senior Cyrus Tate in the middle. Jake Kelly would have likely factored into the equation if healthy, but Iowa's newcomers produced. Tucker has a good touch from the field and expect Iowa to find ways to get him open looks as the season progresses. Both Peterson and Tucker did a solid job of running the club, combining for a 7-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio. * Things were pretty quiet inside. Tate and Jarryd Cole combined for six shot attempts, as much a result of the defensive pressure Wayne State was applying than anything else. * Numbers to keep an eye on. Iowa had 14 assists and 10 turnovers. Those numbers are respectable. The Hawkeyes had more assists than turnovers just five times a year ago in Big Ten play. * Iowa's bench outscored Wayne State 11-5. That happened just three times a year ago during Big Ten play -- in a 64-51 loss at Wisconsin, in a 43-36 win over Michigan State and in a 64-49 rout of Penn State. This Hawkeye team clearly has actual depth at each position, something the Hawkeyes could not say last season.