Dec. 12, 2007
IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team will go after its third victory in four games when the Hawkeyes conclude the unofficial State of Iowa Tournament with a nonconference game against Drake on Dec. 14. Tip-off is 7:05 p.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa holds a 53-8 advantage in the all-time series against Drake, but the Bulldogs won 75-59 last season in Des Moines. Iowa is 27-2 against Drake in Iowa City and 10-0 against the Bulldogs at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Bulldogs have equaled the best start in school history by winning eight of their first nine outings. Drake is coached by Keno Davis, UI alumnus and son of former Hawkeye head coach Tom Davis, who led Iowa to 269 wins from 1987-99.
“As I watched (Drake) I was reminded of people asking me what I thought about moving the three-point line back next year,” Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter said. “I don’t think Drake will care. Not only do they shoot it well, they shoot it deep.”
The Bulldogs have won seven consecutive games after falling at Saint Mary’s (Calif.) 72-66 on Nov. 10. Drake averages 10.2 made three-point field goals per game and has outscored opponents by nearly 23 points per game. Three Bulldogs average double figures in scoring and two others contribute at least 8.4 points per game. Josh Young is averaging 17.8 points per game (33 three-point field goals), followed by Leonard Houston (16.6) and Jonathan Cox (11.1 points, 8.8 rebounds).
The teams share one common opponent. Drake defeated Iowa State 79-44 on Dec. 5 in Des Moines and Iowa State defeated Iowa 56-47 on Dec. 8 in Ames.
“Drake’s system is obviously working well,” Lickliter said. “It requires skill, composure and poise and they’ve demonstrated all of those. They have terrific spacing and that puts (opponents) in difficult spots. This will obviously be a challenge. It’s an important part of growing, that’s for sure. Hopefully we’ll be as well-prepared as possible at that point in time.”
Approximately 10,000 tickets have already been sold for Friday’s game. It could feature the Carver-Hawkeye Arena return of Tony Freeman, who suffered a foot injury Nov. 1 during an exhibition game against Simpson College. Freeman helped the Hawkeyes to a 62-55 win at Northern Iowa on Dec. 5 by scoring 15 points in 24 minutes. Freeman did not play against Iowa State because of recurring pain in the foot.
“Tony practiced full (Tuesday) and only the individual knows how painful it is,” Lickliter said. “A lot of athletes have to play with soreness and I think that may be Tony’s situation and he’s just going to have to see what he can tolerate.”
“The individuals in the stands have been supportive and they have a good basketball intellect. They cheer for you when you need them. So often you need that boost and they’ve given us a boost a lot of times. So I really appreciate the fans we have here. We can control that there will always be a Hawkeye team playing. If that Hawkeye team plays the way we want them to play, then I think people will want to come. Our hope is that will be the draw.”
UI head coach Todd Lickliter
Iowa has averaged more than 9,100 tickets sold during its first seven games. UI sports information director Phil Haddy said that 10,000 tickets have already been sold for the Drake game.
“The individuals in the stands have been supportive and they have a good basketball intellect,” Lickliter said. “They cheer for you when you need them. So often you need that boost and they’ve given us a boost a lot of times. So I really appreciate the fans we have here. We can control that there will always be a Hawkeye team playing. If that Hawkeye team plays the way we want them to play, then I think people will want to come. Our hope is that will be the draw.”
Two Hawkeye statistical leaders — Justin Johnson and Kurt Looby — have started all 11 games this season. Johnson has scored a team-high 173 points (15.7 ppg) with 39 three-point field goals and 10 steals. Looby is shooting 73.7 percent from the field (28 of 38) and also leads Iowa with 20 blocked shots and 7.6 rebounds per game. Johnson is second in the Big Ten Conference in three-point field goals made (3.55 per game), third in minutes played (35.73) and fifth in scoring (15.7). Looby is fourth in blocked shots (1.82 per game) and seventh in rebounding (7.6).
As a team, Iowa leads the conference by allowing opponents just 29.7 rebounds per game. The Hawkeyes are second in scoring defense (55.7), third in field goal percentage defense (.381) and fourth in three-point field goal percentage (.361).
When asked what the Hawkeyes could do to become more consistent on the court, Lickliter replied, “Practice with purpose every day so it becomes a habit to consistently do the right things.”
Lickliter was also asked what thought of the contribution of freshman Jake Kelly, who has started four of 11 games and is averaging 7.5 points per game.
“I knew he was very capable,” Lickliter said. “He’s a skilled basketball player capable of scoring. We’ve had to depend on him. To his credit, he’s been assertive when he’s had to be. It’s something he’s probably been forced into and we needed it.”
Kelly is tied for first on the team with 10 steals and second with 11 three-point field goals and 28 assists. He is averaging 26.5 minutes per game.
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