Dialing Long Distance

Nov. 12, 2009

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Official Sports Report, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free. To receive the UI’s OSR or to learn more, click HERE.

IOWA CITY, IA — After three weeks of battling each other in preseason practice, the Iowa men’s basketball team finally got a chance to square-up against some outside competition Sunday afternoon in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Hot shooting from long distance enabled the Hawkeyes to surge past Marian University, 76-53.

It’s no secret the Hawkeyes love to shoot the three-ball and the Hawkeyes displayed some hot shooting from beyond the 3-point arc Sunday. Half of Iowa’s 28 field goals were from 3-point range, sinking 14 of its 31 attempts. Iowa’s three main assassins were Devan Bawinkel, Matt Gatens and Anthony Tucker. The trio drained 12 of the 14 treys. Bawinkel converted 4-of-6, while Gatens made 3-of-5 and Tucker 5-of-11.

Rookie point guard Cully Payne played in his first game as a Hawkeye on Sunday and loves the accurate shooters he is surrounded with on this team.

“Having great shooters makes my job easy,” said Payne. “Going down the lane on a fast break, I know I can kick it the either corner or Matt (Gatens) at the wing. Their shooting abilities help me out a lot. I was able to play well on Sunday because of the great guys around me.”

Payne finished the contest with six assists, which he amassed on Iowa’s first 10 field goals of the game. The native of Schaumburg, IL, also made his only 3-point attempt.

Tucker, who finished with a game-high 21 points against Marian, saw his first game action in Carver-Hawkeye Arena since last January. Gatens is glad to have his classmate back in the Hawkeye lineup.

“Having Anthony Tucker back this year is huge,” said Gatens. “He can really stroke the ball real well. Shooting the three is a weapon we use a lot so it’s big when we’re knocking down shots. If we can keep it up it’s going to be big for this team.”

Tucker averaged 10.4 points, draining 38 triples, in 14 games last season before missing the last 14 games.

Head Coach Todd Lickliter is really impressed by the progress Tucker has made since last season.

“I feel like Anthony has really made strides,” said the third-year head coach. “I believe going overseas this past summer was a good thing for him to get back on the court and it has paid dividends.

“I think that Anthony has got a skill that you have to work at but it’s one that you should appreciate. It’s a funny thing, I told him I never had this problem — my coach never jumped on me for not shooting. It’d be a nice problem to have. If we feel like he has an open look that is when he gets in trouble, if he doesn’t shoot it. He’s not alone; Matt Gatens has also been shooting the ball really well.”

Although the Hawkeyes shot the ball well in the exhibition game, the Hawkeyes know they have work to do in certain areas to prepare for Sunday’s season opener against Texas-San Antonio.

“I feel like we need to work on closing out and helping out on defense and also getting into our offensive sets more efficiently,” said Payne after Sunday’s exhibition contest.

Iowa will need to covet the basketball in Sunday’s opener; the Roadrunners are one of the nation’s best in forcing turnovers and collecting steals. The Roadrunners rated eighth nationally in thefts (9.3) and ninth in turnover margin (4.0) last season. Junior guard Devin Gibson (17.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.0 spg) ranked third in the country last season in steals.