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Archive for February, 2009

Quick change

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
Iowa found out how quickly things can change Wednesday night at Wisconsin. The Big Ten game went from competitive to another road loss in a matter of seconds with what transpired in the final seconds of the first half at the Kohl Center. From the Hawkeyes' 10th turnover of the half -- a strong play the Badgers' Trevon Hughes that picked of a pass from Jake Kelly -- to the technical whistled on Matt Gatens and the buzzer-beating 3-pointer things fell apart quickly. Wisconsin scored seven points in the final 23 seconds of the the half, turning a five-point game into a seven-point situation that Iowa never recovered from. Experience and poise factored into the issues that forced the Hawkeyes to stomach their ninth straight loss on the road. When Gatens grabbed the ball as it fell through the net, he found the Badgers' Marcus Landry standing between him and the end line. Gatens opted to clear him out with a forearm. Landry opted to force the officials to react. "If I fell down and would have just gotten up, they wouldn't have called a thing. I sold it, but from experience I knew better than to retaliate,'' Landry said. Those were the words of a senior, understanding how to gain edge following a freshman mistake by Gatens. "It was not a good play for us,'' Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said. "We had the ball, we possibly could have scored, and then they get five points and now it is a 12-point game. It was a big play and something that was very avoidable.''

Same old Wisconsin

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
Todd Lickliter doesn't see a lot of difference between the Wisconsin basketball team that was stuck in the midst of a six-game losing streak last month and the one that brings a two-game winning streak into tonight's game with Lickliter's Hawkeyes. "Wisconsin was actually playing pretty good basketball then and they continue that now,'' Lickliter said. "When you look at those six losses, two of them went to overtime and two more were single-possession games. They were right there, playing good basketball. They just didn't pull them out. Lately, they've been winning those games.'' The losses have left Wisconsin at 5-6 in Big Ten play and needing a win against the Hawkeyes to keep NCAA hopes afloat. "We know that they're playing with a sense of urgency, but we are, too,'' Iowa guard Jeff Peterson said. "We feel like we have a lot to play for, too, and we need to approach every game that way.'' Badgers coach Bo Ryan has tinkered with his lineup a bit since last month's 73-69 loss to the Hawkeyes in OT, but Wisconsin players are averaging about the same number of minutes they did during that Jan. 21 game. "It looks to me like they're simply finding ways to win,'' Peterson said. "They did a good job of holding Penn State down (on Sunday) and we know they'll defend. They always do.''

Taking what is there

Saturday, February 7th, 2009
Iowa took what Northwestern gave it Saturday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. That turned out to be a dozen 3-point baskets and a much-needed victory. As much as anything, Iowa was able to do what its offense is designed to do - find open looks and take them. The Hawkeyes didn't exactly blister the nets, although their 40-percent touch from 3-point range was better than their 2-of-10 shooting from inside the arc. Iowa did, however, take the open looks available against a Northwestern 1-3-1 defense that has given Big Ten opponents fits this season. "Watching tape, we aren't the first team that has tried to beat them with 3-pointers from the baseline and I'm sure we won't be the last,'' Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said. "I believe you have to be opportunistic and those were the shots that were available to us.'' Iowa made 12 of them, the sixth time this season the Hawkeyes have hit at least 10 3-point baskets in a game. Iowa's season high of 14 was set as part of a 50-percent effort behind the arc in the Big Ten opener at Ohio State. The Hawkeyes also hit 13 3-pointers against Southeast Missouri State and the Citadel and matched Saturday's output with a dozen against Bryant. "Mostly we want to take what people give us, but we don't mind it when people zone us,'' freshman Matt Gatens said. "We don't mind that at all.''

It’s no accident

Friday, February 6th, 2009
Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter appreciates the way Northwestern's basketball approaches the game, pointing to the balance and flow he sees as he watches the Wildcats work. "They can shoot the 3, drive it, post people up,'' he said Friday. "They've got a great feel for what is the highest percentage play and they make it.'' The Wildcats are doing what Lickliter hopes his own team will be capable of doing at some point. "It's no accident,'' he said. "They have good skill and a good offense that they execute flawlessly.'' That hasn't been the case with Iowa. Lickliter spent a lot of time this morning addressing the lack of consistency and what his players perceive as a lack of leadership during a teleconference with reporters. Lickliter believes that time will cure most of what ails a young Iowa team, but he acknowledges that we do not live in a patient society. He also refuses to concede anything for the here and now. "I know we will get better with time, but I don't want to limit what we can do now,'' he said. "I don't like putting limitations on my team. Are we going to be better in time? I believe we will. Is that going to prevent us from trying to win and execute at a high level today? Absolutely not.''

Angry Iowa

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
Iowa basketball players weren't in a pleasant mood after dropping a winnable game against Big Ten cellar-dweller Indiana on Wednesday night, a loss that leaves the Hawkeyes one-half game out of the basement themselves. Players questioned the leadership they are getting from within the team and said that something has to change and change soon if Iowa is going to put an end to its ongoing struggles. Freshman Matt Gatens concedes that playing without a senior on the floor is an issue, but there is little the Hawkeyes can do about it until Cyrus Tate is healthy enough to return to action from one of the most serious ankle sprains Iowa has dealt with in years. "I got in some guys' faces in the second half, trying to get people going,'' Gatens said. Sophomore Jake Kelly said it will take a collective effort. "I do think we need some leadership to step up and lead,'' Kelly said. "We're letting too many games get away.'' Iowa coach Todd Lickliter was quick to point out that Iowa created a one-possession game when Jeff Peterson scored on a lay-in to pull the Hawkeyes within a 63-60 score with 48 seconds left. A Nick Williams steal of a Kelly pass a little over 20 seconds later left Iowa to deal with fifth Big Ten loss of eight points or less. "We're there. We're in games,'' Gatens said. "We got to find a way to finish.'' Indiana coach Tom Crean hung around the Assembly Hall long after Wednesday's game ended, looking like a politician after his team earned its first Big Ten win under his watch. "I tried my best to shake as many hands as I could,'' he said. "I would have liked to have shook the hand of everyone that was in this building. The way our fans have been supporting this team has been an amazing part of this.'' Crean credited Iowa, now 2-8 in Big Ten play, as well. "They shoot the ball inside and out, they defend. Their record is not indicative of the type of team they are at all but it says something about the Big Ten this year,'' Crean said. "We picked a bad time to build our program.''

Tate doubtful

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
It is doubtful that senior Cyrus Tate will see action in tonight's game at Indiana. The ankle sprain that has sidelined the Iowa post player continued to be an issue during workouts leading up to this afternoon's game. Tate, who leads the Hawkeyes in rebounding, hasn't played since suffering the injury in a Jan. 8 game against Minnesota. If he does not appear in the game against Indiana, it will be the seventh straight game he has missed.

On to Indiana

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009
Asked this morning if he was concerned that his team might feel additional pressure because Indiana is still seeking its first Big Ten victory, Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter wouldn't travel that path. "We don't look at things that way at all,'' Lickliter said. "We try to live in the present. We try to learn from mistakes of the past, but mostly, we try to live with tunnel vision. We respect Indiana, we respect every opponent, but our focus remains on our team and doing the things that we do. "I think our guys have played some good basketball in stretches. What we're striving for right now is consistency.'' Lickliter said during his teleconference this morning that Cyrus Tate planned to practice this afternoon and if all goes well, he could be available for limited minutes against the Hoosiers. Tate's return would be welcomed by an Iowa team that has averaged 8.5 fewer points and been without a solid inside presence since he sprained his ankle on Jan. 8. The only senior in Iowa's starting five also leads the team in rebounding.

The bottom line

Sunday, February 1st, 2009
Todd Lickliter liked the effort he saw from his Iowa basketball team on Sunday. Long term, he believes that will pay dividends but the second-year Hawkeye coach said following his team's eight-point loss at Illinois that the Hawkeyes must comprehend the bottom-line nature of the game. "Our guys are fighting hard and I think their play is better than our record. But, we must understand that we will ultimately be graded on our record,'' Lickliter said. "If you are a competitor and understand the nature of the game, it's hard not to get discouraged and we've got to guard against that. We have a lot of basketball left in front of us.'' That begins with a dangerous assignment on Wednesday, when Iowa visits an Indiana team that is winless through its first eight Big Ten games, but like the 2-7 Hawkeyes has played better than its record indicates. More than one Iowa player mentioned that the Hawkeyes cannot afford to look beyond their next opponent. Given that it has been nine years since the last time a Big Ten team failed to collect at least one conference win, that mindset would be wise to take to Bloomington.