Finding Success on the Road

Feb. 26, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Playing on the road no longer presents impossible odds for the University of Iowa men’s basketball team. In fact, the Hawkeyes have completed a pair of successful outings during their last two games away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Feb. 5 and 17.

Iowa (10-17 overall, 3-12 Big Ten Conference) has an opportunity for its third road win of the season tonight against Illinois (17-11, 7-8) at Assembly Hall in Champaign. Tipoff is 6:05 p.m.

“We can beat a team like Illinois,” UI freshman Zach McCabe says. “We need to come in with the mindset that we can win every game. I think we can compete with anybody and that’s the way it needs to be.”

On Feb. 5 at Indiana, the Hawkeyes shot 54.5 percent from the field in the second half and made 20 of 25 free throws in a 64-63 victory. On Feb. 17 at Northwestern, Iowa shot 51.7 percent from the field, but fell three points from a win against the Wildcats (73-70).

“Getting that confidence at Indiana helped us going into Northwestern,” UI junior Matt Gatens said. “It’s a game we could have won — we were right there. Hopefully it will carry over into an environment like Illinois. They’ll be ready for us, but it’s a matter of taking care of the ball and making shots. On the road that’s huge and it’s something we have to do.”

It’s not easy leaving Assembly Hall with a win. Illinois holds a 59-14 advantage in games played in Champaign, where it has won nine straight and 20 of the last 21. Iowa’s last win against Illinois on the road was 78-72 on Feb. 21, 1999.

“We have to work hard and we have to play hard — we can’t have any mental lapses, especially not at Illinois,” UI freshman Roy Devyn Marble said. “They’re going to have a great crowd and they have a great team, so we have to play hard and be mentally tough the whole game.”

The teams met Dec. 29 in Iowa City with the Fighting Illini posting an 87-77 win, but it took superb shooting to do so — Illinois made 32 of 48 field goals (66.7 percent) and 13 of 18 3-pointers (72.2 percent). Gatens scored 21 points with five 3-pointers and four assists in that game.

Gatens enjoys the atmosphere at Illinois.

“They always seem to have a bunch of fans and the students are really close to the floor right on top of you,” he says. “It’s fun. It’s a good environment.”

The Hawkeyes are 2-7 on the road this season; the Illini have lost their last two games.