Overconfident? These Hawkeyes learned a lesson

Feb. 18, 2008


IOWA CITY, Iowa — You can bet overconfidence won’t plague the University of Iowa men’s basketball team Tuesday evening when the Hawkeyes host Northwestern at 8:05 p.m.

The Wildcats might be 7-16 overall, 0-12 in the Big Ten Conference, but a valuable lesson learned by Iowa on Valentine’s Day is undoubtedly still stuck in the collective Hawkeye craw. It was on that night when Iowa raced to a 16-point lead over a Wolverine team that entered the game with three league wins and one road victory. Michigan scored 44 second-half points and rallied to win, 60-52.

“I hope they learned a valuable lesson,” UI head coach Todd Lickliter said. “(The lead) wasn’t big enough and we obviously learned an expensive lesson.”

The Hawkeyes are 11-15 overall, 4-9 in league play. They are 104-51 all-time against Northwestern, but the Wildcats have won four of the last six. Iowa prevailed 66-58 in the only meeting last season at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“Northwestern is extremely well-coached,” Lickliter said. “The spacing, cuts and challenges they present are not only excellent, but they’re more than willing to make you guard multiple actions during a possession.”

The Wildcats, who have lost five consecutive games, boast three players averaging in double figures in scoring — Kevin Coble (15.3 points per game), Craig Moore (13.3) and Michael Thompson (12.3). Thompson, a freshman, is third in the Big Ten with 4.17 assist per game and a .459 three-point field goal percentage. Northwestern is second in the conference in three-point field goals per game (7.75) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.18) and third in steals per game (7.33) and turnover margin (plus-2.0).

The three players with the most three-point field goals in Big Ten action will be firing from downtown on Tuesday — Iowa’s Tony Freeman (3.08 three-point field goals per game) and Justin Johnson (2.92) and Northwestern’s Craig Moore (2.92). Freeman is fifth in the conference in scoring (14.5) and Coble is seventh (13.8). Iowa’s Seth Gorney is second with 5.62 defensive rebounds per game.

“I’m very aware of Northwestern and the way they play,” Lickliter said. “I’ve watched them through the years with respect. They’re unique in their system and they present problems. They shoot the three, but they get a lot of backdoors. It’s a proven system that any coach would respect and appreciate.”

Playing a team as patient and disciplined as those coached by Bill Carmody requires defensive effort and focus.

“If you want to win, then you’ll stay in there and defend,” Lickliter said. “You have to have a competitive spirit and a competitive intellect. You have to maintain your stance and you have to maintain and adjust your positioning. You have to meet that test.”

Lickliter put an abrupt end to discussion about Indiana University and recent speculation about the Hoosier coaching staff making phone calls in violation of NCAA rules.

“I’ve got my hands full with trying to coach a team that’s lost three in a row,” Lickliter said. “I will say this: Because somebody breaks a rule doesn’t always mean it was intentional.”

He also refused to accept that his Hawkeye team — despite using just seven players the last four games — is becoming tired.

“Myself and four of you could play four minutes at a time,” Lickliter said. “You play four minutes, sit two, two and a half, then you get 15 minutes at halftime. I can’t imagine being 20 years old and being fatigued. I just can’t even fathom it. Guys who like to play will play all day.”

The Hawkeyes travel to Michigan State on Saturday, Feb. 23, with a 1:05 p.m. tip-off from East Lansing, Mich. Iowa defeated the Spartans 43-36 on Jan. 12 in Iowa City.

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