Dec. 21, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa head men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery knows Indiana is the first Big Ten Conference opponent for the Hawkeyes, but Coppin State is what stands between the Hawkeyes and win No. 11.
“I know we play Indiana and that’s as far as I have gone with regard to looking at the next week or so. Our focus is on tomorrow,” McCaffery said Friday during a teleconference.
Iowa enters the game with a record of 10-2, Coppin State is 3-9. It has been a spotless month of December for the Hawkeyes (5-0). Saturday’s game against the Eagles, with a 12:06 p.m. (CT) tipoff, concludes the nonconference season. Iowa hosts Indiana on Dec. 31.
Two areas please McCaffery most about his team: defense and the fact so many Hawkeyes are contributing.
“You can break it down into a million other ways, but I think those are two things that have pleased me the most,” McCaffery said.
“They’re quick, (Mitchell) has been around a long time, he’s a terrific coach. They’re going to be focused and ready. They run good stuff, share the ball, and have a lot of different guys that can make a play and shot. They have great team speed and they compete. That’s been a staple of his teams over the years, they’re going to battle you.”
On facing Coppin State
Thirteen Hawkeyes saw action Wednesday during a 90-46 win against South Carolina State. One who didn’t was sophomore guard Josh Ogelsby, who was sidelined with spasms in his back that were limiting his movement.
“I think he is going to give it a shot (Friday),” McCaffery said. “He did not practice yesterday. We were just talking about that — I think he has, without a doubt, been cleared to practice. We’ll see how he does and it will be a game-time decision as to whether or not he plays.”
Another UI sophomore — Gabriel Olaseni — has been making the most of his recent opportunity. In the last four games (he did not see action against Iowa State), Olaseni has averaged 14.3 minutes, 6.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.8 blocked shots per game. Against South Carolina State, he played 19 minutes with 10 rebounds and four blocks — all career-highs.
“We have been watching him in practice for almost a year play that way, and it is just starting to come together for him in games,” McCaffery said. “You see him play with a completely different level of confidence in himself, and what is expected of him, and what he expects from himself, knowing where to go, where to be, playing through a mistake, making a play. I’m thrilled with him.”
Following the game against Coppin State, McCaffery said the Hawkeyes will have time off for Christmas, returning to Iowa City on Dec. 26 — six days before the Big Ten opener.
“I have been doing this a long time, and a lot of coaches get freaked out and bring them back on Christmas Day,” McCaffery said. “It’s a long season. We start working these kids out at the end of August, so they need a little bit of a break, and it comes at a real good time because now we have 18 league games coming up. We can separate and look back at the nonconference part — see what we did right, what we did wrong, how we can improve, and go into what we know is going to be an incredible challenge.”
As for Coppin State, it is coached by Ron “Fang” Mitchell. Iowa is 2-0 all-time against the Eagles (1998, 2006), who are on a seven-game road trip.
“They’re quick, (Mitchell) has been around a long time, he’s a terrific coach,” McCaffery said. “They’re going to be focused and ready. They run good stuff, share the ball, and have a lot of different guys that can make a play and shot. They have great team speed and they compete. That’s been a staple of his teams over the years, they’re going to battle you.”
Eagles freshman Zach Burnham is from Davenport (Iowa) Central High School.