Nov. 7, 2010
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By MICHELE DANNO
IOWA CITY, Iowa — First-game excitement fueled the University of Iowa to a 111-66 victory over the University of Illinois-Springfield in the teams’ exhibition opener at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday.
In a press conference last week, UI head coach Fran McCaffery expressed anxiety that his new players would try to play “too fast” in the first game, something he said would result in a “butt-kicking” with turnovers and poor decisions. To his relief, the Hawkeyes’ speed and intensity level actually benefitted them, allowing them to control the pace of the game and trounce UIS.
“Obviously I was pleased with a lot of aspects of today’s game, not the least of which was our intensity level,” McCaffery said in a postgame press conference Sunday. “I thought we competed and shared the basketball. Our big guys were involved, we pushed it, and our decision-making was pretty good.”
After testing a few different lineups throughout preseason, McCaffery decided to capitalize on Iowa’s size advantage over the Prairie Stars for the first game. As a result, the youthful starting squad consisted of freshmen Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe, sophomores Cully Payne and Eric May, and recently recovered senior Jarryd Cole, who suffered a foot injury in the preseason.
|Iowa 111, Illinois-Springfield 66||1st||2nd||Final|
|Points: Eric May (UI) 21 | Hart (UIS) 17|
|Rebounds: Basabe, Marble (UI) 8 | Meece, Spinks, Love-Roberts (UIS) 4|
|Assists: Cully Payne (UI) 10 | Smith (UIS) 7|
May got the ball rolling with a 3-pointer in the first minute of the game, which was quickly followed by J. Robert-Love’s 3-pointer to bring to tie the score.
However, the Hawkeyes quickly regained the lead when Basabe turned the ball over for a layup, drawing a foul and making the free throw to bring Iowa’s lead to 6-3.
“Obviously I was pleased with a lot of aspects of today’s game, not the least of which was our intensity level. I thought we competed and shared the basketball. Our big guys were involved, we pushed it, and our decision-making was pretty good.”
UI head coach
Basabe’s was the first of 12 steals for the Hawkeyes in the first half, showing their dominance over UIS, which turned the ball over only twice.
On defense, the Hawkeyes dominated the inside, and kept the Prairie Stars limited to mostly 3-point shots.
Still McCaffery said the Hawkeyes have “work to do” defensively to prepare for larger competitors down the road.
“Defensivly, we’ve got to work on ball-screens, back-picks, getting over, and things like that,” he said. “But again, we’re covering for each other, and I think that’s important.”
Aside from perimeter shots, a majority of UIS’s points came from free throws, where it capitalized on Iowa’s consistent foul trouble – – another area McCaffery said Iowa needs to improve on.
Cole started the fouling about five minutes into the first half, allowing Chigozie Umeadi two free throws, bringing UIS within two points of Iowa with a score of 12-10.
But the Prairie Stars’ margin didn’t stay close for long. McCabe soon scored a three, marking the first points of his collegiate career.
Freshman Roy Devyn Marble also saw a bit of floor action in the first half, and made an impact for the Hawkeyes with three rebounds and three assists around the 11-minute mark. He brought Iowa to a nine-point lead with a score of 29-20, and the Hawkeyes continued to trounce UIS for the last 10 minutes of the half.
By halftime, Iowa was only three-and-a-half points shy of last year’s point average of 60.5 per game. They led the Prairie Stars 57-27.
Both teams returned from the break a little less energetic than the first. McCabe missed the Hawkeyes’ first shot, which was recovered by UIS’s Love-Roberts, who made 1 of 2 free throws after drawing a foul from McCabe.
McCabe quickly made another scoring attempt with a missed 3-point shot, but Basabe soon regained the Hawkeyes momentum with jumper before the end of the first minute.
Although both teams showed signs of tiring, Iowa kept the crowd engaged with a Basabe slam-dunk that was assisted by Payne. Shortly after, Payne assisted Cole to put Iowa over their 60.5 average game score, and they led 63-28.
Basabe roused the audience again with another dunk to bring the score to 68-32, and he finished his first game as a Hawkeye with two free throws to bring it to 72-38. Around the 12-minute mark, McCaffery began pulling the starters, and Basabe was the first to come out – – receiving a gracious ovation from the 9,050 crowd members.
To break the 100-point mark, Marble rebounded a missed UIS 3-pointer, passing the ball off to junior transfer Bryce Cartrwright, who brought the score to 101-58 with a breakaway layup.
Finishing the job was freshman Cody Cox, who hit a 3-pointer for the Hawkeyes, giving them a 45-point victory over the Prairie Stars.
The overwhelming margin marked the first game for McCaffery as Iowa’s coach, and he beamed with pride over his men’s effort and teamwork throughout all 40-minutes.
“I can’t promise 111 every game,” McCaffery said. “But we’re going to try, I can tell you that.”