Hawkeyes Retain Focus With Head Coach Sidelined

Dec. 7, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa — While head coach Todd Lickliter remains hospitalized because of a procedure to relieve headaches, the University of Iowa men’s basketball team has turned its focus on Northern Iowa and the first of three consecutive in-state games.

The 3-5 Hawkeyes travel to the McLeod Center on Tuesday to face a Northern Iowa squad that has one blemish in six outings. Tipoff is 7:07 p.m. Iowa leads the all-time series 32-7, including a 65-46 win last December in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and a 62-55 decision in Cedar Falls in 2007.

“They’re very much a veteran team and a team that is very strong in the post,” UI assistant coach Chad Walthall said. “Their guards are capable shooters. They’ve won championships and they have a championship mentality. They’ve had some close games and they’ve had guys step up and hit some big shots at critical moments and that’s what veteran teams do that have been there before. They’re very fundamental and sound in their half-court offense and they execute extremely well.”

Walthall, who is handling the head coaching responsibilities in the absence of Lickliter, also gave a statement and fielded questions at Monday’s scheduled press conference. Assistant coach Joel Cornette will sit in for Lickliter on the HawkTalk radio call-in show later this evening.

UI sports information director Phil Haddy informed the media that Lickliter expects to leave the hospital Monday.

“He’s very tired,” Haddy said. “He did not have an aneurism, he did not have a stroke, he did not have a heart attack; he did not have anything along those lines. He’ll be more specific when he returns for the next press conference (Thursday, Dec. 17).”

Haddy, who spoke with Lickliter’s wife, Joez, moments before Monday’s press conference, said that coach Lickliter expects to return to the bench Friday at Iowa State.

“He’s doing much better,” Haddy said. “It was a serious procedure and he’s out of danger and feeling much, much better today.”

The Panthers are coming off a 63-60 win against Iowa State in Ames on Dec. 2 — their fourth consecutive victory. Iowa is looking for its second win in a row after downing Prairie View A&M, 80-51, on Dec. 5. This will be the first road challenge for the Hawkeyes, who have played twice on a neutral site. The Panthers won their only game in the 7,293-seat McLeod Center, 52-45, against Northern Illinois.

“The crowd noise in there is amazing,” Walthall said. “It gets really loud; it’s one of the toughest places we’ll play all year. It’s maybe not the largest arena, but it’s certainly one of the loudest and we’ll have to play with great poise on both ends and be intelligent on both ends.”

Iowa won the game two seasons again in Cedar Falls, but Walthall said the Hawkeyes will not stress that during Monday’s practice.

“You just have to go in with a mindset that anywhere you play, if you play the way you want and execute and guys defend the actions, then it will take care of itself,” Walthall said. “It’s fun to play in that environment. It’s not easy, but a competitor looks at it as a great challenge.”

The last time out, the Hawkeyes made 15 of 31 3-point field goals and cruised to a 29-point win.

“It’s amazing how all of the sudden a couple shots go in and it snowballs,” Walthall said. “We’re just too good of a shooting team to keep shooting as poorly as we were.”

Walthall thinks the UI players showed good focus against Prairie View A&M with their head coach in the hospital.

“Sometimes when your leader is gone, it makes guys step up even more and hopefully fulfill that role,” Walthall said. “Sometimes you bind together because you have to take care of your (coach) who is gone.”

Walthall, a native of Staples, Minn., came to the UI after serving seven seasons as head coach at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. During his final season, the Duhawks won 21 games and won the Iowa Conference championship.

“Coaching is coaching,” Walthall said. “You’re under a little bit different microscope here obviously. Once the ball goes up you try to relax and coach the game, whether it’s Division III kids, Division II kids or Division I. The game is played a certain way. It’s the same, it really is, once the ball goes up.”

That ball will go up once again for the Hawkeyes tomorrow.