Time to get stout, not pout

Jan. 27, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa — After a week of contrasting finishes to Big Ten Conference games, University of Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter said that it’s time for the Hawkeye men’s basketball team to get stout and not pout.

Iowa (12-8 overall, 2-5 Big Ten) defeated Wisconsin 73-69 in overtime on Jan. 21, three days before losing a late lead and the game at Penn State, 63-59.

“When you come up on the wrong end of a game like that (at Penn State), you fail to see the beauty of the sport sometimes,” Lickliter said at Tuesday’s media conference inside the Carver-Hawkeye Arena press room. “When I think about Wisconsin, how we had to persevere and make plays — how proud I was of the guys. Then Penn State basically did the same thing down the stretch and I wasn’t nearly as pleased, but you have to respect that part of the game. It was interesting how the two scenarios contrasted.”

The Hawkeyes return to the court Thursday, Jan. 29, against No. 9 Michigan State with a 6:05 p.m. tip inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The game will be broadcast by ESPN. University of Iowa students are admitted free, and as of Tuesday, 1,915 have taken advantage of the promotion.

“They are skilled at every position and they’re extremely well-coached,” Lickliter said of the Spartans. “They present real problems. What you have to hope for is that you can get your defense set and somehow keep them in front of you and then maintain your position. You’re not a top 10 team if you’re not really, really good. They are well-deserving of being in the top 10. They’re a terrific team.”

Iowa led by as many as 14 points against Penn State and Lickliter mentioned that although the loss was hard to swallow, there are still lessons to be learned.

“We don’t have time to do any kind of pouting,” Lickliter said. “We have to bounce back.”

A large portion of the media conference was spent talking about strength and conditioning. The example that started the discussion was Nittany Lion senior Jamelle Cornley, who made 11 of 17 field goals against the Hawkeyes and grabbed four offensive rebounds in 40 minutes.

“Strength is never a negative,” Lickliter said. “You can develop strength and it can be a plus. A great example is Jamelle Cornley. I would say he’s about 6-foot-5, but he’s incredibly strong. He is skilled, he’s a versatile player, but without question his strength is a real asset. He has continued to develop that strength. This is an aspect when you have a relatively young team, freshmen usually have to adjust. They’re almost shocked by the physicalness of the game. Our guys are adjusting. You grow through the stresses of the game. There is probably an added degree of urgency now that they’ve experienced how strong these teams are.”

“Nothing surprises me anymore. I don’t think anybody should be surprised by the Big Ten at this point in the season. Every team in it is competitive. It’s a really competitive league.”
UI head basketball coach
Todd Lickliter

Michigan State holds a 1-game lead in the conference standings and oddly enough, the Spartans have a better winning percentage on the road (6-0) than at home (7-1). Michigan State leads the Big Ten in scoring offense (76.1 points per game), rebounds per game (40.4), rebounding margin (plus-10.8) and offensive rebounds per game (14.79). Lickliter pointed out that the Spartans have 101 more offensive rebounds than their opponents (281 to 180). Michigan State was upset at home Jan. 21 by Northwestern, 70-63.

“Nothing surprises me anymore,” Lickliter said. “I don’t think anybody should be surprised by the Big Ten at this point in the season. Every team in it is competitive. It’s a really competitive league.”

The playing status of UI senior Cyrus Tate is still unknown. He has missed the past four games with an ankle injury.

“He said yesterday that it’s still sore,” Lickliter said. “I think we’re doing the right thing in saying `when you’re back, let’s make sure you’re back for good.’ He’s been on the bike, he’s moving around better, but he still has some soreness up high, but I think it’s getting better day-by-day.”

In 16 games this season, Tate has averaged 7.4 points and 6.3 rebounds, while shooting 68.3 percent from the field.

Lickliter continued to stress the importance of young players adapting to the physical nature of Big Ten basketball.

“Are we as strong as we need to be? No we’re not, so let’s get there,” Lickliter said. “If that means tweaking (the current strength and conditioning program), let’s tweak it. If it means more commitment from our players and more commitment in the off-season from our players, then let’s do that. I do know that the body with reasonable stress adapts to it and you grow. I don’t know what the best methods are, I leave that to the strength coach. I know it’s a process, but let’s make sure we’re doing everything we can to expedite it. I don’t think this is a group that will shy away from it.”

Three of Iowa’s first four games in the month of February are on the road, beginning at Illinois on Sunday, Feb. 1, at 1:05 p.m.