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Archive for December, 2009

Off to the races

Thursday, December 31st, 2009
Minnesota will present Iowa with a different type of challenge than the one the Hawkeyes faced in  Tuesday's loss to Purdue. The Golden Gophers average 80.2 points per game and will test Iowa's transition defense when given the opportunity. That's an area where the Hawkeyes struggled earlier this season and coach Todd Lickliter said during a teleconference this morning that Minnesota will provide his team with another measuring stick for progress. "I don't know if you ever make enough progress,'' Lickliter said. "Saturday will be a real test because they will come at you hard. I think our transition defense has improved and I think we are doing a better job of getting back but we will have to be on top of our game Saturday. They'll see in on tape before the game, but sometimes you have to experience the speed and aggressiveness to understand what it takes to deal with it.'' Led by Al Nolen, the Gophers lead the Big Ten in steals and Minnesota prefers to play an up-and-down game. "They aren't reckless at all in the way they go about it, but they do like to attack in transition,'' Lickliter said. "They have a good mix of speed, size, a little bit of everything. It will be another good test.''

Can’t catch a break

Thursday, December 31st, 2009
Former Hawkeye Jake Kelly just can't seem to catch a break. His basketball season at Indiana State ended Tuesday night when Kelly tore the ACL in his left knee during a 70-52 loss at Southern Illinois in the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both teams. The injury took place in the second half when Kelly was fouled by the Salukis' Carlton Fay on a breakaway opportunity. Fay put his body into Kelly in what the Terre Haute Tribune-Star described as a "hard, but clean foul.'' Kelly's knee planted as he fell to the court. "It's a bad deal when anybody goes down for the year like that. In Jake's case, he's had a lot thrown in his lap the last year,'' Indiana coach Kevin McKenna told the publication. "To have that happen is another real challenge for him. You lose your mom, you join a new team and try to get acclimated and this happens. It's really, really a terrible thing.'' McKenna said Indiana State will attempt to gain a medical redshirt year for Kelly, who had played in all 12 games for the Sycamores. He averaged 9 points per game, third on the team. Kelly had scored three points Tuesday before suffering the injury in the game against former Hawkeye teammate Tony Freeman. Freeman finished with a game-high 19 points, well above his season average of 12.7. Iowa coach Todd Lickliter addressed Kelly's injury in response to a question during a teleconference this morning. "I feel bad for him,'' Lickliter said. "He's a guy who absolutely loves to play and be in the gym. It's going to be an extensive rehab. I wish him the best, but I know he'll come back from it and continue to be a good player. It will be a test for him, though.''

Comparison shopping

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
Tuesday's Big Ten opener against Purdue provided the Iowa basketball team with a firsthand look at a second of the nation's top-four rated college teams. Texas, which handed the Hawkeyes an 85-60 loss in the semifinals of the CBE Classic, and Purdue are different teams. The Boilermakers did not show either the depth or athleticism that the Longhorns have used to build a 12-0 record. Purdue may be the better defensive team of the two, as Iowa found out in its 67-56 loss at Carver-Hawkeye. "They're similar, though,'' Iowa freshman Eric May said. "They both come at you with a real physical game and they don't let up.'' Iowa sophomore Matt Gatens saw another similarity. "It's still a loss, but we hung with two of the top teams in America for more than a half. We were ahead or tied against both,'' Gatens said, referring to Iowa's halftime tie against Texas and its one-point lead over Purdue at the break. "We've just got to finish games out. We should know from this that we are close. It's just a matter of putting halves together.'' Iowa coach Todd Lickliter had interest in another comparison following Tuesday's game. Purdue steps outside of Big Ten action on New Year's Day, hosting West Virginia at Mackey Arena. "Purdue plays the game with a lot of energy,'' Lickliter said. "They are as aggressive of a team as we've played. I thought the West Virginia team we saw a year ago at Las Vegas was aggressive, but this Purdue team is at that same level. It should be a very interesting match-up later this week.''

A starting point

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
Three wide-eyed freshmen on the Iowa basketball team received an introduction to Big Ten buckets on Tuesday night. Purdue provided a good opening-night experience for a young Hawkeye team. Iowa didn't get shortchanged at all. Few teams in the league will defend with the intensity and the aggression that the Boilermakers defend with from one end of the court to the other. "This is really a new experience for a few of these guys,'' Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said following the 11-point loss. "Now they understand it and that should help them as far as their next challenge.'' Lickliter appreciated the way his team dealt with the defense Purdue threw at Iowa. "I don't think their defense backed us down,'' Lickliter said. "I do think it was wearing and I do think it is what they do. It's a good strategy. They run people in, defend hard, defend the full length of the court and I think it was very challenging. I felt our guys accepted the challenge and did what we needed to do to attack them. You should get better having played against that.'' Lickliter conceded that there were stretches when Iowa was more effective against the Purdue pressure than others. He liked the fact that his team remained poised and continued to attempt to execute. It was the type of game that fit freshman Eric May well. "They really get up on you. Coming off screens, there was pressure the whole time. It was a real test,'' said May, who finished with 11 points and shared the team lead with 8 rebounds. "They forced us to stay strong, remain under control. We never let them dictate what we were doing and if we can continue to do that, we're going to give ourselves a chance,'' May said. Iowa turned the ball over 16 times against the fourth-ranked Boilermakers and finished with more turnovers than assists for the second time in its last eight games. Lickliter was asked about Anthony Tucker changing his plea to guilty on a public intoxication charge and if that change would impact Tucker's return to the team. The Iowa coach passed on the opportunity to go beyond his statement on Monday that Tucker's status would be determined once he completes requirements of his ongoing suspension. "I'm not ready to respond. There's always a chance for something to happen,'' Lickliter said. "We are at a point where we are trying to do what is best for him.''

Talking Tucker

Monday, December 28th, 2009
Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter was asked about a laundry list of players during a news conference this afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. He said Jarryd Cole seems to be fully recovered from an ankle sprain he suffered late in Iowa's win over South Carolina State and that Brennan Cougill and Cully Payne - both who have dealt with back issues - seemed to benefit from four days off last week. Lickliter even offered that Devon Archie had even given Iowa "eight good minutes'' of time on the practice court on Sunday, progress for a player who will likely redshirt this season after dealing with what was finally diagnosed as pneumonia after recovering from a shoulder injury. What remains unresolved is the status of sophomore guard Anthony Tucker. Tucker remains with his family in Minnesota and is still suspended indefinitely from all team activities following his arrest on public intoxication charges in the early morning hours of Dec. 20 in Iowa City. "We've talked with Anthony and his family, but he is not back with us at this point,'' Lickliter said. "We're still working through everything. We anticipate that he'll be back. We just don't have a timeline at the present time.'' Lickliter said he is moving cautiously in part because this is Tucker's second violation of Iowa's student-athlete code of conduct. An automatic suspension as well as requirements of Tucker undergoing an alcohol dependency assessment and community service are mandated requirements for second-time violators. Lickliter said he is continuing to assess what additional penalties above and beyond the mandated ones might be applied in this instance. "Because of when it happened, I am being very careful to make certain that institutional and departmental protocol is followed. Then, as a coach, I will decide if adding onto those requirements is merited,'' Lickliter said. Lickliter said Tucker has indicated to him only a desire to rejoin the Hawkeye program.

Family ties

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009
Todd Lickliter expected his son, John, to fill a significant role for the Iowa basketball team this season. He just didn't expect it to be during games. The redshirt freshman's playing time before Monday's game against South Carolina State totaled zero minutes. That changed during the first half Monday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena - a byproduct of the suspension of sophomore Anthony Tucker. Tucker has pretty much handled back-up point guard duties when Cully Payne isn't on the floor for the Hawkeyes this season. His indefinite suspension - or leave of absence if you prefer - has forced some changes. Iowa has lost one of its primary ball handlers and there is some merit to finding someone else who can fill that role for a few minutes whenever Payne needs a breather. If that someone is someone other than Matt Gatens, it's even better for Iowa because it allows Gatens to continue to play to his strengths, which have been many in recent games as he continues to grow. That leads to the end of the bench, where John Lickliter normally enjoys a front-row seat after running the scout team in practice on a regular basis. Monday, he was brought into the game with about 12 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first half. His insertion into the lineup for two minutes, a bit on both sides of a media timeout, provided Payne with a break and illustrated the potential of some help. He dished out an assist, grabbed two rebounds and knocked down a pair of free throws in his first two minutes of time in a collegiate game. He also missed a 3-pointer, but earned a couple of minutes late in the half and returned to the court briefly after halftime. A turnover and a defensive lapse led to a quick hook and an ear-ful of advice from his coach and father in the second half. Following the game, Lickliter said he may have been a little too tough on his son. "My father was tough on me, though, too, when he coached me and I don't think it hurt me,'' coach Lickliter said. "I have confidence in him and I know John has confidence. He's never been afraid of stepping into a game. He gave us some good minutes.''

Tucker suspended

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Iowa sophomore Anthony Tucker has been suspended indefinitely from the Hawkeye basketball team following his second arrest in as many years on public intoxication charges.

Tucker was arrested early Sunday morning following a 9-1-1 call to The Lodge, an Iowa City apartment complex.

Director of athletics Gary Barta announced the suspension prior to Sunday’s Iowa women’s basketball game with Drake.

“We received a call early this morning that Anthony Tucker had been picked up on public intoxication charges. At this point, we don’t know any more details but we were able to confirm that he was the person involved,’’ Barta said. “Anthony will be suspended indefinitely from all team activities.’’

According to police reports, police were called to The Lodge after receiving a 9-1-1 call that “sounded like a problem with a cab and a fare.’’

The call abruptly ended at that point and police were dispatched to the scene, where Tucker was later charged.

The arrest comes one year after Tucker was charged with public intoxication after he was found unconscious in an alley behind an Iowa City bar shortly after 1 a.m. on Dec. 6, 2008.

Tucker was suspended at that time and later missed additional games because of an illness before being declared academically ineligible for the second semester of the 2008-09 season.

“We are certainly disappointed in this situation,’’ Barta said. “The first thing we wanted to make sure of is that Anthony is OK from a physical safety standpoint and he is. We are disappointed because this is not the first issue Anthony has had with alcohol and as a result, he has been suspended indefinitely.’’

Tucker scored 17 points in the Hawkeyes’ 71-67 victory over Drake on Saturday evening. He is second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.9 points per game.



Like riding a bike

Sunday, December 20th, 2009
Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter returned to the bench Saturday, and aside from getting knocked to the floor by one of his own players who was involved in a scramble for a loose ball, it was pretty much business as usual for the Hawkeye coach. Back in action two weeks to the day after undergoing surgery to repair a torn carotid artery, Lickliter watched a little more of the game from the bench than normal but otherwise managed the team throughout Iowa's 71-67 win over Drake. He conceded that things were a little different in the hours leading up to the tipoff. "Maybe I was a little more anxious,'' Lickliter said. "It's still pretty early. I'm two weeks into it. The doctors tell me everything is good. I believe them. It was experience.'' Lickliter said he "missed being here, being with the guys'' as much as anything during his time away from his team. "I'm thankful that a lot of prayers were answered and that there is a way to correct the problem and now I get to do something I love to do,'' Lickliter said. "I think every experience a person has in life is life changing. If you don't change something, then you haven't learned much. I try to do what I think is right most of the time in my life. I'm not saying I've had a revolutionary change. I just believe that every experience impacts a person in some way.''

Staying put

Thursday, December 17th, 2009
The only place Anthony Tucker plans to go are to practice and class. Following a Thursday practice, the Iowa sophomore addressed message board chatter that suggested that Tucker might be planning to add his name to the list of players who have left the Hawkeye program in recent seasons. "I'm not going anywhere,'' Tucker said. "People always speculate on that type of stuff. Who's happy, who's not. There's nothing to it. Right now, I'm looking forward to the rest of the season and getting better and working with my teammates.'' Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said he has had no discussion with any players concerning potential transfers. He said he was unaware of the unsigned message board posts that had surfaced in recent days. "This is the first I have heard of it and I usually don't comment on anything unless somebody signs their name to it,'' Lickliter said. Lickliter said during his Thursday news conference that Iowa has enjoyed a fairly normal week of finals week practices in recent days. "Last year, we had trouble getting everybody together because of finals schedules, but that hasn't been the case this year. We've had nearly everybody here every day,'' Lickliter said. The only person missing Thursday's workout was junior Devon Archie, who was absent because of an illness. Lickliter said he does not anticipate any mid-year academic issues with his team this year. "By all indicators, they're doing a good job in the classroom,'' Lickliter said. "We tell if they can do two things -- be a good student and be a good player -- and prioritize those things correctly that they can accomplish both.'' He said Tucker, who sat out the second semester last year after being declared academically ineligible, enjoyed good spring and summer semesters in the classroom. "All indicators are that it was a lesson learned,'' Lickliter said.

Back to work

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter is easing his way back toward the bench this week. The recuperating Hawkeye coach met with assistants and watched his team practice on Monday, the first time he has been with the team on the court since undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his carotid artery on Dec. 5. He spoke on the Big Ten teleconference and fielded questions on his weekly radio call-in show as well, saying that he felt tired but felt good to be back at work. "I'm on the mend, I think. I just follow the doctor's instructions,'' Lickliter said on the Big Ten call. He said he will be involved in workouts leading up to the Drake game, but will be smart about it as well. "We'll ease into it and go from there,'' Lickliter said.