Demanding schedule continues

Nov. 30, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The college men’s basketball world will have its collective eyes focused on the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday and every willing University of Iowa student will have a free seat. The Hawkeyes (2-4 overall) host Virginia Tech (4-1) inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena with an 8:35 p.m. tipoff.

“Along with free admission, it’s going to be an exciting game, no matter what,” UI freshman Eric May said. “If I had the opportunity to come for free, I’d take advantage of it.”

“I would like to expect a big crowd,” UI freshman Brennan Cougill said. “It’s the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. People should be excited to come out and watch us play. We always give 100 percent effort and after all, (admission) is free.”

UI students may pick up a complimentary ticket at the IMU Box Office or at the ticket window in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday, Nov. 30, or Tuesday, Dec. 1. A student ID is required.

The Hawkeyes are looking to string another victory onto the one it secured Saturday, 73-63, against North Carolina Central. Iowa is 2-6 all-time in the Challenge after being edged by Boston College, 57-55, last season.

“It hasn’t been very kind, so I’ve not enjoyed the last two,” UI head coach Todd Lickliter said about the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. “There’s a lot of interest in it and for somebody who likes competition and challenges, it offers that. These are two great conferences and it’s a real positive. Fans have enjoyed it.”

Iowa’s wins in the Challenge have come in 2000 (85-67 over Georgia Tech) and in 2005 (45-42 over North Carolina State). Virginia Tech is 1-3 in the Challenge and the lone win for the Hokies was 69-65 against Iowa in 2006.

Lickliter met the media Monday and said that junior forward Devon Archie and sophomore forward Aaron Fuller were both on the court Sunday for practice. Archie, who will not play against Virginia Tech, went through non-contact drills. Lickliter said Fuller was “moving better” and is expected at full strength soon. When asked if Fuller would see game action Tuesday, Lickliter said “he’ll be available, I think.”

The first five opponents this season for the Hawkeyes owned a combined record of 11-2 following their game against Iowa. Virginia Tech is 4-1 with its only setback to Temple, 61-50, in the Philly Hoop Group Classic.

“We have an exceptionally good team coming in Virginia Tech,” Lickliter said. “They’re averaging 15 offensive rebounds a game (75 in five outings) and they’re very, very good in transition. They’re aggressive.”

Last season the Holies won 19 games before falling to Baylor in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament.

“This is another part of our schedule that’s very demanding,” Lickliter said. “Our schedule this year is going to be top 25 at least strength of schedule. This is part of that.”

Lickliter spent a good portion of his meeting with the media talking about shooting. The Hawkeyes made a season-best 50 percent from the field the last time out Saturday (28 of 56), but for the season, they are shooting nearly 14 percent below their opponents from 3-point range (40.2 percent to 26.6 percent).

“Our guys need to get in and shoot at game speed,” Lickliter said. “If we think it’s going to fix itself because we’re supposedly good shooters, it isn’t going to happen. We need to get in and shoot the ball at game speed, when we’re not relaxed, but comfortable. This is a good group, they’re staying after it.”

Lickliter said the Hawkeye offense is “growing” and he complimented the team for improved balance. Against North Carolina Central, Iowa attempted 56 total field goals, 36 coming from 2-point and 20 from 3-point.

“We were more in-tuned to throwing it inside. That doesn’t mean we’re going to live on that, but we’re starting to get some really good balance,” Lickliter said. “When we shoot it the way we should be shooting it — when that happens, I think you’re going to see an offense that is clicking and can be really effective.”

Iowa concludes its three-game home stand Saturday against Prairie View A&M. Tipoff is slated for 3:05 p.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes will play two in-state road contests next week: at Northern Iowa (Dec. 8) and at Iowa State (Dec. 11).