Lickliter impressed with Penn State's improvement

Feb. 25, 2008

University of Iowa Game Notes

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa will go for a season sweep of Penn State in men’s basketball when the teams meet Wednesday at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa. Tip-off is 6:05 p.m. CT.

The Hawkeyes defeated Penn State 64-49 on Jan. 26 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and hold a 20-9 lead in the all-time series. Iowa has won eight of the last nine meetings. The Hawkeyes are 12-16 overall, 5-10 in the Big Ten; Penn State is 12-14, 4-10.

“I’m really impressed (with Penn State),” UI head coach Todd Lickliter said. “I think they’ve done a terrific job, but sometimes you aren’t rewarded by the win. They’re fairly young, but they’re playing well. I think (head coach) Ed (DeChellis) has done a great job keeping them together, moving forward and competing.”

The game Wednesday at State College will feature two teams that are very good at keeping opponents off the glass. The Nittany Lions are fourth in the Big Ten in rebounding defense (limiting opponents to 30.6 rebounds per game) and Iowa is fifth in the same category (31.0). The Hawkeyes are third in scoring defense (59.9) and fourth in defensive rebounds (23.33). Penn State is fifth in the league with 10.36 offensive rebounds per game.

UI junior power forward Cyrus Tate, who was named Big Ten Conference Player of the Week after a 26-point, nine-rebound performance at Michigan State on Feb. 23, leads the league in field goal percentage (55 of 76, .724) and is third in rebounds per game (7.3) and offensive rebounds per game (2.73). Tony Freeman is tied for first with 45 three-point field goals in 15 conference games (3.0), third in minutes played (35.87) and seventh in points per game (13.8). Seth Gorney is second in the Big ten in defensive rebounds (5.47) and fifth in rebounding (6.7). Justin Johnson is third in three-point field goals made (39, 2.6) and fifth in minutes played (35.33).

Penn State is led in scoring by Jamelle Cornley (11.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Talor Battle (9.3 ppg, 3.0 apg). The Nittany Lions have lost two games in a row and have two wins in their last 12 outings.

When asked if Tate was the Hawkeye MVP this season, Lickliter answered that the goal is to have an entire team of MVPs.

“I’ll tell you somebody I’m really pleased with is Dan Bohall,” Lickliter said. “He’s been terrific in practice. He was good this morning again. When you look at it, so often we equate contributions with statistics or points or whatever and I don’t think that’s fair. If everybody could focus on doing their job, you could have a team of MVPs and a really good team.”

Lickliter revealed that Iowa is still actively recruiting players who could sign during the first week of April. He also said that his son, John, has been accepted to the University of Iowa and “the plan right now” is for him to walk on the team next season.

“We’re working hard,” said Lickliter about the recruiting process. “If it’s the right fit, then they’ll know it and we’ll know it and we’ll move forward. We feel like we’re making progress. We have a pretty good understanding of what we need and who we’re recruiting.”

Iowa looks to bounce back against Penn State after falling behind 20-1 at Michigan State last Saturday before being defeated 66-52 in East Lansing.

“The drought against Michigan State was just too early and too long,” Lickliter said. “I’ve been saying we want to get better, we want to grow. We’ve seen some of that.”

Part of that growth process continues to hinge on shot selection — more specifically, attempting high-percentage shots.

“I think we get anxious,” Lickliter said. “I wish we had more poise and patience at times. Any time you take a low-percentage shot, you pass up an opportunity to shoot shots you know you’re going to make.”

Times and dates for the remainder of Iowa’s regular season schedule have been set. The Hawkeyes will host Illinois on Saturday, March 1, beginning at 5:05 p.m. and travel to Northwestern on Tuesday, March 4, beginning at 8:05 p.m. Iowa’s remaining three opponents have a combined conference winning percentage of .163 (7-36).

TATE NAMED BIG TEN PLAYER OF THE WEEK — University of Iowa forward Cyrus Tate has been named Big Ten Conference Player of the Week for his efforts in Iowa’s two games last week. The Hawkeyes defeated Northwestern 53-51 in Iowa City on Feb. 19 and dropped a 66-52 decision at No. 17 Michigan State on Feb. 23.

Tate scored a career high 26 points in the loss at Michigan State, making 10 of 13 field goal attempts and 6 of 7 free throws. He also led Iowa with nine rebounds. Tate recorded the third scoring and rebounding double-double of his career in the win over Northwestern, collecting 18 points and 11 rebounds. Tate hit 7 of 9 field goal attempts and 4 of 8 free throws against the Wildcats, matching a career-best with three steals. He scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half as Iowa rallied from a 14-point deficit for the win.

“I think it’s a great statement because the only thing Cyrus has ever been concerned about is doing his job and helping the team,” Lickliter said. “When you focus on helping others and doing your job, then sometimes individual success comes along. Cyrus would be the first to tell you that he would take a win any time over that. He’s deserving I believe.”

Tate is averaging 7.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in all games, shooting 68.6 percent from the field. In league games, Tate is averaging 10.7 points and 7.3 rebounds. He leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage (.724) for league games only and is third in rebounds.

Tate (6-foot-8, 240 pounds), is a junior who is in his second year at Iowa after attending Northeast (Neb.) Community College for one season. He is a native of Chicago, where he attended Homewood-Flosmoor High School. This is the first Player of the Week honor for Tate and the first for a Hawkeye men’s basketball player this season.

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