Jan. 6, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team is coming off consecutive road wins for the first time since 2007, but now the question looms — where do the Hawkeyes go from here?
“You go on the road, you play well, you beat Wisconsin, a place where they don’t lose much,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery during a press conference Friday in the media room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Then to back it up with another road win is terrific.
“OK, where do you go from here? We lose the next six in a row, it’s like, OK, they won a couple of games a while ago. The reason we won those two games is we’re playing better. It’s pretty simple. Now we have to continue to play even better.”
That statement holds true, especially with No. 6 Ohio State coming to Iowa City for a 2 p.m. (CT) tip-off on Saturday. The Buckeyes are 14-2 on the season and 2-1 in the Big Ten Conference after downing Nebraska, 71-40, Jan. 3, in Columbus, Ohio.
Most of the country knows of preseason All-American Jared Sullinger, who leads the Buckeyes with 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. Aside from 6-foot-9 forward, Ohio State has pieces all over the floor.
“It would be a great atmosphere if this place is full. It’s always a great environment, and we need that to help us beat a top-ranked team. Hopefully we can keep duplicating the success and keep this momentum going. Having a big crowd on Saturday will help that out.”
Senior guard Matt Gatens
“The offense is something when you have that many weapons,” said McCaffery. “The guy that nobody is talking about is (DeShaun) Thomas. He’s as good of a scorer as there is.
“Then you have (William) Buford, who might be their all-time leading scorer when it’s all over. And (Aaron) Craft is more aggressive offensively than he was last year. Then they bring in so many good athletes off the bench.”
There is a buzz surrounding the Hawkeyes around the state and nationally following the two road victories. That success is translating to the ticket office, where approximately 1,400 tickets remain for Saturday’s game.
“It would be a great atmosphere if this place is full,” said senior guard Matt Gatens, who is averaging 13.6 points on 45.8 percent shooting. “It’s always a great environment, and we need that to help us beat a top-ranked team. Hopefully we can keep duplicating the success and keep this momentum going. Having a big crowd on Saturday will help that out.”
McCaffery is looking for a packed house, and he thinks his team will play off the energy.
“We’ll be revved up, that’s for sure,” he said. “Our defensive intensity, focus and concentration with the energy in the building will certainly be at its peak. Offensively, we may have to settle down here or there. We have a little bit more maturity this year in terms of understanding that.”
Sophomore Zach McCabe put together one of his best games of the season in the 64-62 road victory in Minneapolis. The forward stayed out of foul trouble, allowing him to produce and finish with 12 points and seven rebounds in 32 minutes.
“Zach was as good as he’s been against Minnesota,” said McCaffery. “What you’re seeing now is a much more confident player. He’ll make some 3’s, drive the ball, defend the post and understands what we want him to do now. He knows the offense inside and out at all three forward positions. Even though he’s a sophomore, he’s playing like a veteran.”
For Iowa to match-up with the Buckeyes, the Hawkeyes need a solid showing from sophomore Melsahn Basabe. The forward played just 11 minutes against the Golden Gophers, and Iowa won, a feat the team probably couldn’t have pulled off a season ago.
“Hopefully it will be incentive for him to pick it up,” said McCaffery. “He’s typically a guy we have to have on the floor. We’ve had some tight games this year where if he wasn’t on the floor, we wouldn’t have won.”
Where do the Hawkeyes go from here?
“You win two games, feel good about yourself, then you have Ohio State then Michigan State and Michigan. Fortunately, we’ve shown that we can play with these teams, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue to do that.”
Saturday’s game will begin a 2:06 p.m. (CT), and it will be televised on the BTN with Brian Anderson and Shon Morris calling the action.