Hawkeyes Ready for B1G Test

Dec. 28, 2012

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a national television audience, and a matchup against fifth-ranked Indiana awaits the University of Iowa men’s basketball team.

The Hawkeyes face the Hoosiers at 3:05 p.m. (CT) Monday on Mediacom Court. ESPN2 will televise the game live with Jim Barbar and Dan Dakich calling the action.

“I hoped to get to the point where our fans wanted to come back and identified with, and got behind this team,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said Friday at a news conference in the Media Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Our objective is to make sure we play the game the right way and compete at a level that puts us in a position to win.”

Indiana is 11-1 overall with a game against Jacksonville tonight in Bloomington, Ind.

The Hoosiers have five players averaging in double figures with center Cody Zeller, the Sporting News Preseason Player of the Year, leading the way with 16.4 points and 8.1 rebounds. Victor Oladipo (13.5 points), Christian Watford (12.8), Will Sheehey (12.3) and Jordan Hulls (11.1) also average double digits.

McCaffery says freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell has made the biggest impact on the Hoosiers. He has 61 assists in 12 games.

“Ferrell has made a dramatic impact on that team and has taken a lot of pressure off everybody else,” said McCaffery. “He loads them up and he’s constantly breaking his man down and creating opportunities for those guys to get open shots.”

McCaffery says the emergence of Oladipo and Sheehey has given the Hoosiers a deep, balanced squad.

“The difference in their team is the play of Oladipo and Sheehey,” said McCaffery. “They are playing like veterans now. We already knew they have Watford, Zeller and Hulls — three elite scorers — and they have two other guys playing at that level.”

Zeller is a difference-maker for the Hoosiers. His 16.4-point per game average comes on 62.6 percent shooting and he has made 63-of-89 free throws (70.8 percent).

“He’s one of the best running big men I have seen in a long time,” said McCaffery. “Their running game is really on all cylinders right now and that’s an issue for us at both ends of the floor.”

As Big Ten play begins, McCaffery says this Hawkeye team is better-positioned to handle the rigors of the conference schedule than his first two squads.

“We’re deeper, and you have to be deep because this team is going to make you guard them,” he said. “You have to make sure that we are rotating personnel. We have to get back, have to be up toward the ball, put pressure on the ball, continue to dribble and battle them on the glass. It takes a lot of effort.”

ESPN “Bracketologist” Joe Lunardi has the Hawkeyes as the “last team in” in to the 2013 NCAA Tournament. McCaffery likes being among those teams listed, but knows it doesn’t mean a lot. Especially in December.

“I don’t think any of us ever envisioned that we would have a bracketologist — but there is,” said McCaffery. “The bottom line is, we work the numbers every game and people find that interesting. As you know, it means nothing right now.

“But recruits do get on the Internet and they do look at that stuff, so ultimately, it’s good.”

McCaffery said junior Melsahn Basabe is cleared to play against Indiana. The forward sprained his ankle during a Dec. 22 victory over Coppin State.

Fans are encouraged wear black clothing to Monday’s game to “Blackout Carver.” The first 5,000 fans will receive black-and-gold beeds.