Iowa's fortunes to be decided in Indianapolis

March 10, 2008

University of Iowa Game Notes

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Much of the motivation the University of Iowa men’s basketball team will need to advance past the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday can be found by reflecting back on Valentine’s Day.

That evening, in a tale of two halves , the Hawkeyes held Michigan to 16 points in the first half, then allowed 44 during the final 20 minutes, en route to a 60-52 loss at home to the Wolverines.

Now Iowa, the No. 8 seed in the tournament, will play Michigan, the No. 9 seed, again at 11:05 a.m. (Iowa time) inside Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Hawkeyes are 13-18 overall, Michigan owns a record of 9-21. The teams split the regular-season games with Iowa posting a 68-60 decision on Jan. 19 in Ann Arbor.

Tournament time is traditionally a time when the Hawkeyes soar. Iowa has posted a 13-8 record in the Big Ten Tournament, earning titles in 2001 and 2006. Michigan is the only team the Hawkeyes have played and not defeated during the Big Ten Tournament, losing 77-66 in 1998 and 79-70 in 2004. Last season Iowa lost 74-55 to Purdue in the quarterfinals.

“We’re going to start it off against Michigan,” UI head coach Todd Lickliter said. “It’s an interesting matchup in that they shot better here, we shot better there and now we’re on a neutral. I hope it goes back to us. I’d like to be the better shooting team this time. They were terrific against us in the second half here and we’re going to have to see if we can’t do a better job of affecting shots. What they do provided open looks and they executed well.”

Iowa concluded the regular season March 4 by snapping a three-game losing streak with a 67-62 win at Northwestern. The winner of the Iowa-Michigan game will play top-seeded Wisconsin on Friday, March 14, at 11 a.m. (Iowa time). Obviously there are few secrets when playing in a league tournament.

“I’m under the feeling that knowing something and doing something are two different things,” Lickliter said. “No matter who we play, it’s that particular day. You have to be better than them that particular day. You prepare well, play hard and work hard and that’s all you can do.”

Lickliter politely took exception to a question-statement from a reporter insinuating that barring any upsets, there could be only four Big Ten teams qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

“Us and three others?” Lickliter asked. “Would we be an upset? We’re planning on winning it. You can go anywhere you want with it from there. That’s the idea behind it, right?”

“We’re planning on winning it. You can go anywhere you want with it from there. That’s the idea behind it, right?”
UI head coach
Todd Lickliter

Lickliter’s weekly Monday press conference opened in jovial fashion, compliments of a planted prop by UI sports information director Phil Haddy. Haddy placed a fortune cookie on the table in front of where Lickliter sits. Lickliter cracked the cookie and read the fortune. He was asked to reveal the message.

“I don’t want to let it out,” Lickliter joked. “The rest of the teams won’t show up.”

He then stuffed the slip of paper in his front pocket for safe keeping.

A hefty chunk of the conference in the early going focused on the success of the Iowa City High boys’ basketball team winning the Class 4A state championship on Saturday. Two Little Hawk starters — Matt Gatens and John Lickliter — will be Hawkeyes next season.

“I enjoy watching teams and City High is truly a team,” Lickliter said. “Their guys share the basketball and they cover for one another. I’ve enjoyed watching them. I had an opportunity to see how it’s done down in Des Moines this past weekend. That was a lot of fun. It was quite an event.”

Gatens has signed a letter of intent to play for Iowa; John Lickliter will be a walk-on. Coach Lickliter was asked to assess the tournament play of Gatens.

“I’d like to take him with us (to the Big Ten Tournament),” Lickliter said. “I don’t have any complaint with Matt’s play.”

Lickliter, a native of Indianapolis, was also quizzed about his return “home.”

Q: How many family will attend the tournament?
“My mother will be there, I promise that,” Lickliter said.

Q: Where in Indianapolis did you grow up?
“I grew up on the north side of Indianapolis,” Lickliter said. “Same high school that (Indiana star) Eric Gordon went to. Pretty similar players.”

If the Hawkeyes advance to the semifinal game, it will be played Saturday, March 15, at 12:40 p.m. (CT) against the winner of Michigan State and Ohio State. The Big Ten Tournament Championship will by Sunday, March 16, at 2:30 p.m. (CT).

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