Archive for January, 2009
A 2-6 start isn't exactly what coach Todd Lickliter envisioned for his Iowa basketball team, but it is reality. Lickliter said following Thursday's 15-point loss to Michigan State that he continues to believe that the Hawkeyes have made progress that isn't reflected in their record. "I'm hoping we can find some things we can build on. We continue to struggle with understanding our teammates' strengths and playing to those strengths,'' Lickliter said. "Our rules are pretty simple. Shoot when you're open and pass when you're not. There are times when we struggle with that.'' Lickliter praised his team's resilency in the second half, pointing to the way Iowa cut Michigan State's 22-point lead to nine points with about six minutes to play. "We're not going to accept anything other than winning, but before that can happen we have to understand the things that can lead to winning and that is happens,'' Lickliter said. Things don't get easier on Sunday when Iowa faces its second straight rated opponent. It's unlikely that Illinois will have the welcome mat rolled out at the Assembly Hall after being handed the worst loss in Bruce Weber's six seasons on Thursday night at Minnesota. The Big Ten's top shooting was uncharacteristcally cold from the floor in the 59-36 loss at Williams Arena, shooting just 29.4 percent. "The curls that we struggled to trail and defend (in Thursday's 71-56 loss to MSU), we'd better learn to how to handle them in the next two days because we're going to see more of them at Illinois,'' Lickliter said.
Tom Izzo has a few words of advice for Iowa fans who have grown inpatient while watching the Iowa basketball team adapt and grow into the system that Todd Lickliter brought with him from Butler. "Be patient,'' said the Michigan State coach whose team visits the Hawkeyes on Wednesday night. "Iowa has nearly gone from one extreme to the other. When you go back to Tom Davis, you had a completely different system. Teams can win with both. It just takes time. "They've won some games. When I look at them on film, I think Todd has done an extraordinary job there. Nobody picked them to be as competitive as they've been. I remember my first two years here. We weren't playing the same brand of ball that we play now.'' Izzo said he sees the Hawkeyes making strides, especially when considering the players who are no longer with the program that were there when Lickliter was hired. "With the guys he lost, he had to take over in a tough situation and he's already brought it up to a level of more respectabiliity,'' Izzo said. "It takes time.''
Iowa basketball players went door to door on Monday night, hoping to drum up a little business at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Thursday's game against Michigan State is one of two this season that all U of I students can attend for free as long as they take the time to secure a complimentary ticket. The idea is to grow the student fan base by giving them a chance to sample the experience at Carver-Hawkeye, something that athletic department officials hope will lead to more ticket purchases by students. Toward that objective, Iowa players found themselves meeting with fellow students all over campus on Monday. For some, that meant appearances at sorority houses. "It was a great idea,'' sophomore Jeff Peterson said. "We had a lot of fun with it. Cyrus (Tate) had everybody singing 'Happy Birthday' to me at the sorority houses. It was a good time and hopefully they'll come out and support us. It's easy to play when there is a lot of energy in the house.'' Iowa officials say that 1,915 students have taken advantage of the free ticket offer as of early Tuesday morning, something that would bring about 3,000 students to the game. "We need them to be a sixth man for us,'' Tate said.
While Iowa officials continue to seek donors to help fund the proposed $47 million renovation and expansion of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Michigan is moving ahead with plans of its own for a basketball practice facility. Regents there approved at $22 million plan last week that will lead to the construction of a 50,000-square foot facility adjacent to Crisler Arena. Much like the plans at Iowa, the facility will include practice courts for men's and women's basketball teams as well as strength training and locker room facilities for the programs. Unlike Iowa, where plans are somewhat dependant on successful fund raising, dollars aren't an issue with the Wolverines. Athletics director Bill Martin said last week his school hoped to find some donors willing to contribute to the project but if that did not pan out, he said the department would tap into available reserves to fund the project and could proceed without any funds raised. With new practice venues nearing the construction phase at Purdue and already being built at Indiana, Iowa and Michigan are the lone Big Ten schools without a practice facility dedicated to their basketball programs. Iowa anticipates a two-year construction period once ground is broken for a project that coaches Todd Lickliter and Lisa Bluder view as a necessity for their programs to compete.
Seeing was believing Wednesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where the Iowa basketball team found a way to topple Wisconsin, 73-69. The win was the Hawkeyes' second in its last 12 games against the Badgers and its first at home against Wisconsin since 2006. That was also the last time the Badgers found themselves with a three-game losing streak, something Illinois must now cope with as Wisconsin heads to the Assembly Hall on Saturday. Iowa coach Todd Lickliter found plenty to like as his team found a way to put its own three-game skid to rest. He praised the full-court hustle he saw from freshman Aaron Fuller to block a shot following a turnover, he liked what he saw from Iowa's post defense and he appreciated the decisions that Jeff Peterson made, whether he was driving to the basket to give himself 12 opporunities at the line or driving and dishing to an open Devan Bawinkel for a 3-pointer in overtime. He praised the continuing growth he sees from David Palmer and laughed when talking about giving Matt Gatens too much rest. After all, the freshman had only played 44 of 45 possible minutes. The only time he left the game was after being knocked to the floor late in the second half. Mostly though, Lickliter liked the toughness he saw from his team. Iowa played a more physical brand of basketball than it had shown in recent games. It's the type of toughness that it takes in the Big Ten. The type of toughness a young team develops after getting knocked to the canvas a couple of times. "It's something we've got to do and we've got to do it in a legal way, which I felt we did a good job with,'' Lickliter said. "We've learned some lessons, and that's the way it's supposed to work.''
Count Iowa coach Todd Lickliter among the supporters of NCAA regulations approved last week that added seventh and eighth grade players to those labeled as "prospects'' under rules of the organization. In order to end a trend of college coaches working at private elite camps for seventh and eighth graders, the NCAA added those grade levels under the umbrella of rules that previously applied only to prospective men's players in ninth grade and older. The organization previously could not regulate those situations because it was outside the parameters of its rules. Lickliter said he hasn't scouted too many junior-high or middle-school aged athletes lately. "I think some of that is unhealthy,'' Lickliter said. "I think guys should grow up playing the game because they love to play the game. At that age, guys shouldn't be worrying about scholarships. That can come later. I see a lot of attention being paid to younger and younger players and I'm not positive that that is a good situation for our game. I see it as being real unhealthy.''
It was a pretty tough Sunday all the way around for the Iowa basketball team at Purdue's Mackey Arena. That extended beyond the score, where the Boilermakers used 54-percent shooting in the second half to roll to a 75-53 win over the Hawkeyes and Iowa finished with more turnovers than field goals for the third straight game. Iowa guard Anthony Tucker received an earful of taunts from Purdue's student section, well aware of the freshman's December arrest on public intoxication charges. Center David Palmer, replacing injured Cyrus Tate, performed admirably but was winded less than five minutes into the game. Palmer tugged on his jersey toward the Iowa bench a couple of trips down the floor before a replacement was brought in. Once he reached the bench, Tate playfully offered Palmer a water bottle as the junior attempted to catch his breath. Purdue played one of its better games of the season against Iowa, allowing a typical defensive performance to fuel an effective offense. The Hawkeyes shot 36 percent from the field, nearly mirroring the 36.1 percent Boilermakers opponents have shot this season and one reason Purdue ranks second nationally in field-goal percentage defense. Iowa won't have much time to worry about what transpired. The game was the first of three this week for the Hawkeyes, who host Wisconsin on Wednesday and visit Penn State on Saturday.
Although Iowa basketball players had Wednesday off, Hawkeye coaches were on the job. Coach Todd Lickliter went recruiting, searching for the right fit to fill the one remaining scholarship that Iowa has for the spring signing period. Lickliter remains uncertain just what type of player -- a point guard or a dominating big man -- the Hawkeyes will sign when April rolls around. "The funny thing is there are days when I think we'll go in one direction and days when I think we'll go in the other,'' Lickliter said. "We're recruiting both, looking for the best we can find at both positions. ... I anticipate we'll offer (a scholarship to players) at both positions and see what we end up with. We could use some help in both areas. We'll see how it goes. If we get a point guard, that would be a good thing. If we get an inside presence, that would be a good thing, too.''
Iowa's bizarre Big Ten schedule includes the Hawkeyes' first bye this week, giving the team a chance to heal some injuries as it works toward Sunday's 11 a.m. game at Purdue. That's not all bad and based on what transpired in Sunday's loss at Michigan, the Hawkeyes can definitely use the practice time. Still, coach Todd Lickliter wouldn't mind having a nonconference game on the schedule this week. "I wouldn't mind bringing a team into Carver this week. It seems like we cram so many games in November and December into a short period of time. It wouldn't be bad to have one of those games now if we could have found an opponent to make it work,'' Lickliter said. "I think we need to play.'' Lickliter pointed to Friday's Ohio State-Houston Baptist game as an example of a nonconference game that allowed the Buckeyes to maintain a routine. That won't necessarily be easy for Iowa, which plays three games next week and has two other weeks later in the season when it will play three games as well. Do the math. The Hawkeyes will play half of their Big Ten schedule during three calendar weeks and spread the remaining nine games out over six weeks. Something doesn't add up.
Today's game at Michigan was simply an exercise in frustration for an Iowa basketball team that has now lost its last three road games. From the slow start to the sloppy ball handling and technique on the boards, this game mirrored a past that coach Todd Lickliter had hoped the Hawkeyes had left in Des Moines or Columbus. The crisp execution that Iowa displayed during the initial weeks of the season has been replaced by mistakes and confusion and tendency to become timid offensively when things are not going well. More than once in Iowa's last two games, losses to Minnesota and Michigan, Lickliter has shown visible frustration when players have passed up good shots. While making that one extra pass led to strong execution early, there have been recent times when it has led to passing up the only decent look the Hawkeyes are getting before the shot clock expires. A quick line by Jake Kelly during postgame interviews illustrates that point. "I don't think we're comfortable offensively,'' the sophomore said. "This is the Big Ten and you aren't going to get many open looks. When it's there, you have to take it because there probably won't be another one.'' Iowa passed up several against the Wolverines during a first-half drought from the field that lasted 7 minutes, 21 seconds and again in the second half when Iowa scored only a Matt Gatens field goal during a 7-minute stretch. Lickliter was asked if he would like to see Gatens, who went 4-for-8 from the field, attempt more shots. "I want him to take more shots only if he feels like they are shots he can make,'' Lickliter said. "We're having trouble generating shots for him with the way teams have been switching on him (defensively). We're working on setting some things up for him, but we have some work to do there.''