Jan. 8, 2010
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IOWA CITY, Iowa – The beat goes on for the Coach Todd Lickliter and the 2009-10 University of Iowa men’s basketball team. This time, it’s the Spartans of Michigan State, another nationally ranked Big Ten Conference opponent. Game time Saturday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena is set for shortly after 4:30 p.m. Iowa time.
Michigan State enters the game riding a three-game winning streak after having registered a 54-47 victory over No. 20 Wisconsin Wednesday night in East Lansing, Mich. Tom Izzo’s squad is ranked 10th, and is 12-3 overall and 2-0 in league play.
The Spartans are led by three upperclassmen: Juniors Kalin Lucas – the team’s leading scorer at 15.7 point per game – and Chris Allen (10.9 ppg), and senior Raymar Morgan (10.4 ppg). They are at the top of the pyramid of a team that shoots well, rebounds well, boxes out well, runs the court well, plays a half-court game well, and on and on and on.
“I’ve always been impressed with a team that can win in multiple ways and this Michigan State team can do just that,” Lickliter told the media assembled Friday in Carver.
“It’s quite challenging. Experience. Depth. Just a really, really good team,” Iowa’s third-year head coach added with an air of tremendous respect for the program that Izzo has built in East Lansing.
“They always play very, very hard,” he said.
Lickliter opened the visit noting some research assistant coach LaVall Jordan had done that gives Iowa’s coaching staff reason to smile. Against the 11th toughest schedule in the country, Lickliter said Iowa’s productivity is higher than a year ago.
“More possessions, more points, most points inside, more two-point goals. I always say it’s hard to measure year-over-year because the competition changes, but these are signs of progress,” said Lickliter.
He also noted that, at the other end of the spectrum, Iowa is turning the ball over more.
“Against Purdue, there was a stretch in the second half when we let it get away from us. Against Illinois, that stretch came early and was deflating,” Lickliter said.
“We need to do a better job of initially setting the tone and making sure we compete early.”
Lickliter spent a chunk of time talking about his floor leader, his Kalin Lucas, freshman Cully Payne. The rookie from Schaumburg, Ill., is averaging 8 points and 32 minutes a game.
“Lots of time freshman are just happy to play. That’s not the case with Cully. He want to play and play at a high level,” said Lickliter.
In other words, he wants to play like his counterpart on Saturday, MSU’s Lucas.
“He’s versatile, He has the ability to shoot it or to drive it. He’s unselfish. He’s definitely not one dimensional. He’s very good at setting up his teammates but definitely not just a set-up guy,” Lickliter said.
“I’ve always been impressed with a team that can win in multiple ways and this Michigan State team can do just that.”
Lickliter said one of the keys for the Hawkeyes on Saturday and throughout the reminder of the year is to work diligently to win “the game within the game.” He talked about the importance of execution and, if the play calls for the player to receive the pass on the wing, 20 feet from the basket, that he wins that game within the game and receives the pass 20 feet from the basket.
“Against Illinois, there were two or three times where the play called for the ball to be reversed and we couldn’t. You need to make a decision that you’re not going to let that happen,” he said.
Saturday’s game against Michigan State is the first of three home games for the Hawkeyes in the next week. Iowa steps out of conference play next Tuesday to entertain Tennessee State at 8 p.m. before welcoming Penn State to the Arena next Saturday at noon.
Tickets for all three of these dates are available by calling 1-800 IA-HAWKS. Fans can also make their purchase online by clicking HERE.