Jan. 7, 2008
IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa men’s basketball schedule remains a cruel reminder of just how tough life can be in the Big Ten Conference. After playing two top-25 teams, the Hawkeyes will now hit the road and play defending national runner-up Ohio State on Wednesday, Jan. 9. Tip-off from inside Value City Arena in Columbus is 6:05 p.m.
“Tough league,” UI head coach Todd Lickliter said at his press conference Monday. “It’s a good league isn’t it? Two top-25 teams to start and one on the road. Now we go on the road to the (NCAA) runner-up and a very good Buckeye team that’s finding different ways to win.”
Iowa enters the game with a record of 7-8 overall, 0-2 in the conference. Ohio State is 11-3, 2-0. The Hawkeyes will host Michigan State on Saturday, Jan. 12, at 7:35 p.m. There have already been 12,500 tickets sold for the game against the Spartans (13-1, 1-0).
During its first two league games against Indiana and Wisconsin, Iowa held the lead or was tied in the second half. Lickliter likes what he has seen at times, but wants to see that impressive play continue for more of the game.
“I know we’re making progress,” Lickliter said. “I wish during the game we could sustain it and that’s what we’re working for. I don’t think we’ve exceeded our expectations and I think that’s important. I appreciate if there is an appreciation for the way the guys are playing. They do play to win. They’re competitive.”
Lickliter said the team misses freshman forward Jarryd Cole, who will miss the remainder of the season following surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Cole had started six of 13 games and averaged 23.2 minutes, 6.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
“We’re better with Jarryd Cole, no question about it,” Lickliter said. “But you can’t dwell on those things. You have to keep moving forward. We’ve gotten good play out of Seth and Cy and Kurt and J.R. has been willing to move over to the four.”
Seth Gorney is averaging 18.1 minutes, 3.1 points and 3.9 rebounds; Cyrus Tate is averaging 14.4 minutes, 4.8 points and 3.1 rebounds and Kurt Looby is averaging 21.6 minutes, 5.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Fourteen of the 19 field goals by J.R. Angle have been three-pointers. He is averaging 4.4 points per game in 14.8 minutes.
Lickliter will be reunited with Ohio State head coach Thad Matta. Lickliter was an assistant coach at Butler University when Matta was a junior starter for the Bulldogs. Matta returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach prior to the 1996-97 season and served as Butler’s head coach in 2000-01. Lickliter rejoined the Butler staff in 1999-2000, working as an assistant coach with Matta and then as an assistant under Matta in 2000-01. Both Lickliter and Matta have been named Horizon League Coach of the Year as Butler’s head coach.
“If I recall, he told me he was going to be a sales rep when he was in college and I said, `Thad, you’re going to be a basketball coach,'” Lickliter said. “It was very obvious to me. His father was a coach. Great family.”
“I know we’re making progress. I wish during the game we could sustain it and that’s what we’re working for. I don’t think we’ve exceeded our expectations and I think that’s important. I appreciate if there is an appreciation for the way the guys are playing. They do play to win. They’re competitive.”
UI head coach
Lickliter said Iowa will be prepared to take the best shot from Matta and the Buckeyes. When asked for the difference between the 2007-08 Ohio State team and the one from a year ago, Lickliter joked that the Buckeyes “have different pros now.”
Iowa is second in the Big Ten in scoring defense (57.5 points per game). Justin Johnson leads in three-point field goals per game (3.60) and is fifth in the Big Ten in scoring (15.5 ppg). Looby is fourth with 1.67 blocked shots per game.
Johnson has a streak of eight consecutive games where he has made at least two three-point field goals. He sank 8 of 13 and scored 29 points against Indiana on Jan. 2. Lickliter likes Johnson’s team-first mentality.
“I think Justin’s really focusing on defending,” Lickliter said. “I think he is our best screener, which is huge, because I don’t think they’re going to leave him much. When you concentrate on the team concepts and you’re a very good shooter and you’re a natural shooter, then that becomes easier also. He is a team guy that has a skill we all admire which is shooting the ball and part of his responsibility to the team is to shoot it when it’s open, but he hasn’t just relied on that. He doesn’t want to be one-dimensional.”
Johnson has scored 33 percent of the Hawkeye points during the first two league games (42 of 127). Lickliter knows that scoring help is available.
“I think it comes down to shooting shots we can make,” Lickliter said. “Guys are shooting shots that are too tough for them. We need to be content with who we are and we’ll find scoring opportunities if we shoot shots we can make. If we can muster up plenty of humility and say `I’m going to play to my strengths,’ we’ll find another scorer or two.”
The injury to Cole leaves the Hawkeyes with 10 players and nine of those have seen action in the Big Ten and eight have averaged at least 9.5 minutes per game. Lickliter was asked about the status of Dan Bohall, who was suspended after playing four minutes against Eastern Illinois on Dec. 1 and has not played in the last six games.
“He’s with us,” Lickliter said. “If I feel the need, I’ll put him in. I’m not disciplining him anymore. He’s completed everything.”
Lickliter then revealed his general philosophy on discipline.
“To be able to regulate your conduct by principle and value rather than peer pressure, that’s the key.” Lickliter said. “We try to be proactive, set examples and move forward. I’ve been a part of average teams and guys messed up. I’ve been a part of great teams and we didn’t have guys messing up. Guys thought `this might be a little bigger than me.'”
Iowa leads the all-time series with Ohio State 74-67. The Buckeyes won 82-63 last season in Columbus.
Click HERE for the Big Ten Network home page.