Dec. 15, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Another test. When the University of Iowa men’s basketball team returns to action against Drake on Saturday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the Bulldogs will be another test after a week of final exams.
“They present a lot of problems,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery during a media teleconference Thursday. “(Ben) Simons is playing like a star. So is (Rayvonte) Rice. You have two guys averaging 17 points a game.”
The Bulldogs, who had eight days to prepare for the Hawkeyes, come to Iowa City riding a two-game winning streak that has pushed their record to 6-3. Drake won its most recent outing, 66-53, over Eastern Michigan.
“We want to try to get better. Defensively, we haven’t been as good as we need to be. We want to execute a little better, we had been executing better, but it’s not good enough.”
UI head coach Fran McCaffery
Simons paces the Bulldogs averaging 16.8 points per game and shooting 47.2 percent from 3-point range. That figure ranks 19th nationally. Rice averages 16.3 points per contest.
“They have a lot of pieces,” said McCaffery. “When you have two really good players they can really score, and then you put some other valuable pieces, they’re a team that can score points. Any team like that is tough to beat.”
While wins are the No. 1 objective, McCaffery wants to see his team continue to evolve.
“We want to try to get better,” said McCaffery. “Defensively, we haven’t been as good as we need to be. We want to execute a little better, we had been executing better, but it’s not good enough.
“When you’re doing those things hopefully they’re reflected in the final score with a win, but I also want to continue to develop our young players so they can get better and we can be a better team as a result of it.”
Two of Iowa’s underclassmen — sophomores Roy Devyn Marble and Melsahn Basabe — had their best games of the season at Iowa State on Dec. 9. Marble had career highs in points (21) and assists (five), while Basabe made 7-of-12 shot attempts en route to 18 points to go along with nine rebounds.
“We want to see Melsahn continue to develop the consistency that he played with last year,” said McCaffery. “We want to see him play even better. From one game to the next that’s pretty much what we want to do every time.
“He (Devyn) assimilates information and the more minutes he gets, the better he plays, the better he plays the more minutes he gets. I don’t think he’s even reached what he’s going to be by any means. The real test is can he play the way he’s been playing consistently every night and can he do it in the Big Ten? I think he will.”
McCaffery said he will know more concerning the status of senior guard Bryce Cartwright following tonight’s 6:30 p.m., practice. Cartwright has seen limited action the last two games because of a hamstring injury.
“He practiced yesterday and didn’t seem to have too much difficulty,” said McCaffery. “The real test will be how he feels today. As long as he feels good and can go ahead and practice, I’m sure he will be ready to go.”
During the finals week break, McCaffery made his way to Sioux City, Iowa, to watch two of his commitments in the class of 2012 — Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell — square off.
“It was a classic game with a huge crowd. Very intense,” said McCaffery. “Mike had 21 points and five 3-pointers in the first half, which was impressive. Adam had foul trouble and still had 15 rebounds, so I was pretty impressed with both of them.
“They’re winning players, they compete on every possession, they fight and fight and understand how to win. That’s the impact they’re going to have on our program.”
Gesell helped his South Sioux City team best Woodbury and Sioux City East, 83-71. Gesell had 25 points on 7-of-15 shooting (6-of-8 from 3-point range), while Woodbury had 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Saturday’s Iowa-Drake game will be televised on the Big Ten Network beginning at 8:06 p.m. (CT) with Tom Werme and Keno Davis calling the action.