Jan. 28, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team closes out a stretch of four road games in five contests Sunday at Michigan. This game might have gotten even more difficult with the Wolverines flying high after knocking off 21st ranked Michigan State in East Lansing.
Michigan made 10 3-pointers in the road victory at the Breslin Center Thursday night en route to the 61-57 victory. Junior Zach Novak paced the squad in the contest, making six 3-pointers and scoring 19 points.
“Novak is not the only one that can make shots,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery at Friday’s press conference inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “That is the thing that sticks out; they have a variety of good players. (Tim) Hardaway can catch fire at any point in time. I think (Darius) Morris is playing as well as anybody right now in the league.
“They have a young team, but they have a terrific coach (John Beilein). I think they have a good blend of talent, and they obviously are playing really well. They really got after it.”
Morris is Michigan’s top all-around player, averaging 15.6 points, seven assists and 1.1 steals per contest. He is shooting 51 percent from the floor and leads the team with 24 steals.
“He just keeps coming,” said McCaffery. “He’s talented, he’s got good size. It’s his relentlessness that to me separates him. When you cut him off, he goes that way, and when you cut him off again, he goes that way and he keeps coming.”
The Hawkeyes had another case of up-and-down play in the 65-51 road loss at Penn State on Wednesday. Iowa started strong building an 11-point lead early in the first half before trailing by a point at the break. From there, the Hawkeyes struggled scoring, as Penn State cruised to a 14-point victory.
“We go on the road and feel like we played fairly well at Minnesota and four guys score,” said McCaffery. “Then everybody scores against Indiana and we score 91. We go on the road at Penn State and everyone played deliberate, it was a struggle.
“Bryce (Cartwright) is an all-league player in the first half and then in the second half he couldn’t do anything right. Jarryd Cole, all of his buckets were in the first half. Melsahn Basabe looks like a first team all-league player against Indiana, Minnesota and Ohio State, and then he was making one defensive mistake after another against Penn State. He just couldn’t seem to get going.
“That’s always the hardest thing when you’re trying to make progress. You want to try to figure out, OK, these guys are solid; these guys are going to give me this and this and these guys will figure it out and get them improving and collectively we move forward.
“Every time we move forward, somebody else takes a step back and then they take a step back and, well, that’s what this year has been.”
After scoring in double digits in the previous three contests, Basabe played four minutes in the second half and 20 minutes for the game in a road loss at Penn State. In hindsight, McCaffery feels he should have played the freshman more to allow him to learn from the experience.
“I would have like to gotten a younger player more experience,” said McCaffery. “At the same time, I think when you have a younger player who is clearly one of our most talented players, and I think he has chance to be special, you can go back and say he’s never going to excel in those situations unless he’s in there. (Putting him in there) might be the smartest thing for us long term.”
Sunday’s game is set to tipoff at 3:06 p.m., in Ann Arbor, and it will be broadcast to a national audience on the Big Ten Network.