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Archive for November, 2009

An even dozen

Monday, November 30th, 2009
For the first time since the first day of practices on Oct. 16, the Iowa basketball team is at full strength on the practice court this week. Junior college transfer Devon Archie, sidelined since Oct. 17 because of a shoulder injury, has been cleared to resume workouts with the Hawkeyes. He participated in non-contact drills on Sunday, but will not be available to play in Tuesday's home game with Virginia Tech. Coach Todd Lickliter is more hopeful that forward Aaron Fuller will be available against the Hokies. Fuller also returned to practices as he works his way back from an ankle sprain suffered in Iowa's win over Bowling Green on Nov. 20. Fuller played one minute three days later in the Hawkeyes' loss to Texas, but swelling the following day placed him back on the bench for the rest of last week. "It was nice to see 12 guys on the court at the same time,'' Lickliter said. Lickliter said no decision has been made as to whether Archie will redshirt this season. He said the injury to Fuller sparks thoughts about depth. "We'll have to see how everything goes,'' Lickliter said. "It might be in his best interest to strongly consider (a redshirt) if we can stay healthy.''

Under pressure

Saturday, November 28th, 2009
North Carolina Central tested Iowa against some full-court pressure Saturday. The results were mixed, but the experience can only be beneficial for an Iowa basketball team that turned the ball over 16 times, mistakes that led to 15 points off of turnovers. That left coach Todd Lickliter painting a good news-bad news picture as he opened his postgame comments. "The good news is that was had 18 assists. The bad news is that we 16 times where we have a chance to get an assist,'' Lickliter said. "I really thought North Carolina Central did a good job, they drove it at us, spaced well, extended the floor and caused us problems with that.'' Lickliter believes facing full-court pressure will benefit his team in the long run. "I've got to think seeing it helps, they showed two or three different alignments and they trapped at various times. I told the team we need to quit re-learning, we have to learn and not re-learn. I guess you haven't really learned it if you haven't internalized it,'' he said. "In full court pressure, once you beat one line they're not going to stop, they're going to come back. So, we need to do some things there. But, I thought we hit the middle and Brennan Cougill did a good job again alleviating pressure for us, if we threw back he could get it across.'' Lickliter liked the way Eric May caught and faced up against the press on several occasions and he liked what he saw of the Hawkeyes' transition game. "We were running hard. I thought we attacked the basket better when they extended their defense. That is important because if you don't make them pay they will just keep doing it,'' he said.

The learning curve

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter hopes a string of season-opening challenges that included five games in 10 days taught his Hawkeye team something about what it takes to compete at the college level. "I don't know if it's important what I learned about them. I think it's a lot more important what they learned. I'm just trying to guide them through it,'' Lickliter said after watching his team fall to 1-4. "I told them awhile back that I've been their age before, but they've never been my age before. I've seen different things and over time, I feel like I've gained an understanding of what it takes to be successful.'' He also has a clear picture of what doesn't work. He suspects his players' willingness to accept that and to learn from its mistakes will go a long way in determining the path this season will take. Lickliter earlier heaped praise on his team for its effort in a close loss to Duquesne. He liked the effort he saw from the Hawkeyes against third-ranked Texas. He didn't have to say much about the listless effort Iowa turned in against Wichita State. The final score said it all. Lickliter repeated his belief that Iowa has the right players, both on the current roster and in the highly-rated 2010 recruiting class that will join the program next fall. Shortly after the loss to the Shockers, Lickliter also repeated that he feels this Hawkeye team has enough talent to be successful. "This team can be good,'' he said. "I've seen it too much. But you don't have a chance to be good if you're not willing to fight for it. It takes a high level of competitiveness and commitment to become good. If we are passive or accept things, we'll never reach our potential. "I guess we can't accept a high degree of ineffectiveness. We have to demand it of ourselves. Nobody's going to hand anything to us. It's not like it's been easy.'' Lickliter said this season's games have taught his team plenty of lessons already. "We keep learning new ones all the time,'' he said. "Hopefully, eventually we'll be able to apply all of them.'' The four opponents the Hawkeyes faced in the CBE Classic -- Texas-San Antonio, Duquesne, Texas and Wichita State -- provided Iowa with the strongest four-game set of opponents of any team in the tourney. All won at least three of their four games in the tourney. A fifth game, a regular-season nonconference game with Bowling Green, only added to the rapid-fire succession of preparations faced by a team that is leaning heavily on three freshmen. "This has been a very demanding opening schedule -- the toughest we've had in my time here -- but with that said, we haven't made excuses. We accept it for what it is and the hope is that has taught our players a lot,'' Lickliter said. Iowa guard Cully Payne was named to the CBE Classic all-tournament team following a pair of solid efforts in Kansas City, Mo. The freshman from Schaumburg, Ill., averaged 13 points, 5 assists and 2 rebounds in the Hawkeyes' games against third-rated Texas and Wichita State. He also became an instant You Tube hero when his buzzer-beating 70-foot basket forged a 38-38 halftime tie with Texas, a shot that ESPN dubbed its "Play of the Day.''

Growing pains

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
Todd Lickliter hesitated a bit Tuesday night when he was asked about the lack of production from Iowa's experienced players in the Hawkeyes' 74-57 loss to Wichita State. Maybe he was taking inventory of the experience he has on this year's team. It wouldn't have taken long. "When we talk about experience, remember we're talking mostly about sophomores,'' Lickliter said. Iowa played more freshmen - three - than players from any other level in a seven-player rotation as its completed an 0-4 run through the CBE Classic. Matt Gatens and Anthony Tucker were the only sophmores to take the court for Iowa on Tuesday, joining junior Jarryd Cole and the team's lone senior, Devan Bawinkel. For the second time in five games in Iowa's 1-4 start, Bawinkel played over 20 minutes and did not attempt a shot. That doesn't bother the Iowa coach. "He will not shoot a bad shot,'' Lickliter said. "To his credit, he is going to pass up shots unless he feels good about taking them.'' Lickliter refuses to use inexperience as an excuse. He recalled how Carmello Anthony led Syracuse to an NCAA title as a freshman. "Freshmen can lead and can compete,'' Lickliter said. Iowa's freshman point guard, Cully Payne, didn't disagree and expects to lead as first-year player. "Being a point guard, there is a lot of leadership that goes along with that on the floor and I feel like I can step in and do that,'' Payne said. What Iowa should realize after its two-day run at the beautiful Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City is than anything less than being on top of their game is a formula for a loss like the one Iowa stomached on Tuesday. The Shockers, picked fifth in the Missouri Valley, won many of the hustle plays that were there for the taking. They got to loose balls. They picked off nine offensive rebounds and turned them into 11 points. They played with the passion that Iowa lacked as it fell behind by 14 points in the first half for the second straight night. Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall called it a historic night for his program. Missouri Valley teams cherish their wins over teams from BCS conferences and the Hawkeyes got a taste of the intensity they can expect next month when they face Northern Iowa and Drake. Marshall also understands where Lickliter and the Hawkeyes are at. "I'm proud of my team,'' he said. "I know coach Lickliter is going through a hard time trying to build his program the right way and he will do that. But, in the history books, this will got down as a win for Wichita State against the Big Ten and that is significant.''

Tale of two halves

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
Before calling it a night Monday, Todd Lickliter told his Iowa basketball team that it walked out of the Sprint Center a better team than it was when it arrived earlier in the day. Those words may sound a bit strange considering third-ranked Texas had just handed the Hawkeyes an 85-60 loss in the semifinals of the CBE Classic. But Iowa forced Texas to earn its third lopsided victory of the season. The Hawkeyes led the Longhorns 41-38 less than a minute into the second half before Texas went on a 17-0 run that cold-shooting Iowa never overcame. There were signs of growth prior to that point that Lickliter believes his team can build on. "Right now, what we're trying to do is move forward from one game to the next and I believe we did that,'' Lickliter said. We were a better team than we were in our previous games. We competed as well as we could and we competed well in stretches. We just couldn't play at the level we needed to as consistently as I would have hoped.'' Lickliter believes that will come with time. There were some things to like as Iowa overcame a 14-point first half deficit, tying the score at the half on a 70-foot 3-pointer by Cully Payne and taking an early lead in the second half on a closer, but equally-effective 3-point basket by Matt Gatens. Iowa had good balance, with six players contributing between 8-11 points and with five players contributing between 4-5 rebounds. Payne led Iowa with six assists and as a team, Iowa turned the ball over just 15 times against an athletic Texas team. Brennan Cougill enjoyed another solid outing, knocking down 4-of-5 shots as part of an 11-point game that included four rebounds. The freshman was limited to 25 minutes because of foul troubles as he worked against the Longhorns' bulky inside players. He was the only Hawkeye to shoot better than 50 percent from the field. The Hawkeyes did not defend well. The Longhorns knocked down 55.6 percent of their shots in the game and found plenty of open paths to the basket in the second half. Texas outscored Iowa 40-18 in the paint and had a 16-2 edge in fast-break baskets, although the Longhorns collected just 13 points off of Iowa's turnovers. That equaled the number of points the Hawkeyes scored off of 16 Texas turnovers.

First time for everything

Friday, November 20th, 2009
Friday was a night of firsts for the Iowa basketball team. Junior Jarryd Cole knocked down the first 3-point basket of his college career. Anthony Tucker led the team in assists for the first time, dishing out nine in the Hawkeyes' 68-46 win over Bowling Green. His previous career best was two. Freshman Brennan Cougill handled the first start of his collegiate career well. The former Sioux City Heelan prep played 30 minutes and had eight points to go with eight rebounds in his initial start. "There were some jitters, some nerves that hadn't been there in other games,'' Cougill said. "Being out there meant a lot to me. When I was growing up, this is all ever wanted, to start for the Hawkeyes. It was a dream come true.'' Cougill said once he got into the flow of the game, he was simply able to play. "Things felt good,'' he said. Iowa had a season-low 12 turnovers and the Hawkeyes finally hit the shots coach Todd Lickliter has watched them make repeatedly in practice. "I feel good for the players, they deserve the win,'' Lickliter said. "These guys, they are competitors. Think about how poorly we shot last game and it came down to a last-second shot. That's got to tell you this team guards has great effort. What more can you ask from a group of guys. So tonight, they do the same thing and they shoot it in and it is a different game.''

Not-so-great depression

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
The last time the Iowa basketball team opened the season with losses in its first two home games, Herbert Hoover was living in the White House. The Hawkeyes fell to 0-2 with a 52-50 loss to Duquesne on Tuesday night, leaving Iowa winless following two home games for the first time since the 1931-32 season. A second straight dismal shooting effort -- Iowa shot 31.6 percent from the field, 22.2 percent from 3-point range and 53.3 percent from the line -- had everything to do with why the Hawkeyes were unable to collect their first win of the season. Iowa improved its intensity level and showed improvement in its ball handling during the second half after falling behind 33-25 at the break. Those are things a young team can build on, but the Hawkeyes cannot expect to win until they work through their early-season shooting issues. Iowa is getting decent looks, shots that will eventually fall taken by capable shooters. As coach Todd Lickliter has put it, "There's no excuse.'' He also said in his postgame remarks that he hoped this team would not get discouraged, saying they deserve better than that. Iowa's collection of freshmen and sophomores, playing against a seasoned opponent for the second straight game, should now realize the value of hustle and scrap that can help a team compete when shots aren't dropping. It may not be pretty, but it can be effective. Judging this team at this point is a little like judging the Iowa football team in the third quarter of its season-opening struggle with FCS opponent Northern Iowa. The reviews in either situation wouldn't have been favorable and they wouldn't have been fair, either. This Iowa basketball team will be judged by its work over the course of 32 games, its growth from a shaky start and its ability to make the most of the talent currently on the roster. There will be nights when the open looks will fall and undoubtedly, there will be additional nights when they don't. That's reality when you're dealing with a young team. Strap yourselves in, don't jump off of any ledges and prepare for an interesting winter. Iowa will attempt to avoid its first 0-3 start since the 1919-20 season on Friday when Bowling Green visits. In that season, coach James Ashmore's first team lost its first three games against the same opponent, Cornell College. The Hawkeyes fell 22-20, 24-16 and 35-32 in games played over a four-day stretch. Iowa went on to finish 9-10 that season.

Short-handed foe

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
Duquesne will be without its scoring leader from Friday's season opener when it plays at Iowa tonight. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that Melquan Bolding, a 6-foot-4 sophomore who scored 25 points in the Dukes' season-opening 85-62 win over Nicholls State, did not travel with the team to Iowa and was scheduled to undergo surgery this morning to repair a fracture in his right wrist. The injury occured during Friday's game, but initially went undetected. X-rays revealed the fracture that will sideline Bolding for 4-6 weeks. Bolding played high school basketball at Stepinac High in White Plains, N.Y., and originally signed with Louisville before attending Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., prior to his enrollment at Duquesne. He averaged 9.9 points last season for the Dukes. Bolding is far from the only offensive threat in the Dukes' inside-oriented attack. Damian Saunders scored 17 points and grabbed 19 rebounds and Bill Clark finished with 19 points in the opener.

Opening shots

Sunday, November 15th, 2009
Todd Lickliter was determined to squeeze a positive or two out of a disappointing opening-night performance by his Iowa basketball team. "I know what's coming, but I want to pick out a couple of positives here before I take any questions,'' Lickliter prefaced his postgame news conference remarks with, trying to take some of the sting off of his team's 37-percent shooting performance. Lickliter then briefly praised his team's defense, but later pointed out that Iowa was somewhat ineffective in closing out and needed to take more charges instead of swat at defenders. "We defended about as well as any team I have had in a first game, especially with the amount of experience we have. I was pleased with that. I was pleased with our effort in coming back, playing against a team that is very well coached and experienced. They are a good team. There is no doubt about that,'' he said. "They had a really good spurt and our guys battled back. I appreciated that. I appreciated the way we defended, it has to be something where we learn and we grow.'' Iowa did limit Texas-San Antonio to 39.6 percent shooting for the game, and did out-rebound the Roadrunners 38-27. All that was overshadowed by the shaky offensive start. The Hawkeyes' 34-percent shooting -- and its dismal 18.5-percent touch from 3-point range -- were too much for Iowa to overcome against a solid opponent that started four seniors and a junior who led the nation in steals two years ago as a freshman. The Hawkeyes needed more than a 1-for-9 game from 3 by Anthony Tucker and a 1-for-6 game from Matt Gatens from behind the arc. Iowa needed more than 20 minutes without a shot from Devan Bawinkel. Lickliter believes he has a team that can shoot at a much higher percentage. They'll need to on Tuesday against a Duquesne team that is every bit as experienced as UTSA. "I think we'll grow from this. We need to or else Tuesday night is going to be a bear because Duquesne is another good opponent,'' Lickliter said. A few other random thoughts... Eric May continues to be a solid contributor. The freshman from Dubuque Wahlert went 5-of-10 from the floor, hit 3-of-4 free throws, grabbed seven rebounds and shared the team lead with three assists in 28 minutes off the bench. May played a lot at a forward position after Aaron Fuller picked up two quick fouls. UTSA coach Brooks Thompson believes Iowa will be a competitive team as it gains experience. "It's very hard to compete without experience,'' he said. "This is the first year since I've been the head coach here that we've brought back a wealth of experience. I think Iowa has a lot of talent out there to work with and they're going to become hard to reckon with when they do gain experience.'' Thompson's team finished 19-13 a year ago, reaching the finals of the Southland Conference tournament. The Roadrunners also won five road games that Thompson believes has helped his team learn to win on the road. "That's all important,'' he said.

You can call me…

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009
As long as he can play the game, it probably doesn't matter to Iowa basketball coaches what name future Hawkeye Devyn Marble goes by once he steps onto the court at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Marble is the son of Iowa's career scoring leader, Roy Marble, and he has been known as Roy Marble Jr. throughout his high school playing career in Michigan. He committed to Iowa this summer under that name, but has now announced that he plans to go by his middle name, Devyn, once he begins college coursework next summer. It's a chance for him to establish his own identity and not have to deal with constant comparisons to his father. I'm certain he enters college hoping that one day fans will fondly remember what Devyn Marble accomplished, not what Roy Marble's son accomplished and that's only fair. He'll create his own legacy with the work he puts into his game and with the growth that occurs in his skill set as he develops at the next level. So, Devyn Marble is now part of a recruiting class that includes forwards Zach McCabe, Cody Larson and guard Ben Brust. With this morning's arrival of signed letters of intent, coach Todd Lickliter was able to comment on Iowa's 2010 recruiting class for the first time. Here's what he had to say: "They are highly skilled and will be a great complement to the foundation that is already in place. This class accentuates the positive team approach we're emphasizing. We love the versatility, basketball knowledge and skills they possess.'' A player by player breakdown: Zach McCabe, 6-7, 215-pound forward from Sioux City Heelan: "Zach is a proven winner and a fierce competitor. Zach has 3-point range but he can also score with his back to the basket in the post. His ball-handling skills allow him to drive it to the rim or create for his teammates.'' Cody Larson, 6-29, 230-pound forward from Sioux Falls (S.D.) Roosevelt: "Cody is another versatile player who is comfortable in the post or facing the basket on the perimeter. He is a gifted athlete who has good size and excellent basketball skills. His approach very team-oriented.'' Ben Brust, 6-2, 180-pound guard from Mundelein, Ill.: Ben is highly competitive. He can score a variety of ways, whether it's penetrating to the basket or shooting the ball from behind the arc. Ben is also an excellent ball handler and a terrific teammate.'' Devyn Marble, 6-5, 180-pound wing from Southfield (Mich.) Lathrup: "Devyn is an athletic combo guard that can play all three perimeter positions. He is a scoring guard that can also distribute the ball. Devyn can make the game look easier than it is with his court vision and skill.''