'It's Just the Next Step in Our Journey'

March 8, 2013

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Emotions will be riding high for the University of Iowa men’s basketball team with milestones — and a 20-win season — within reach when the Hawkeyes entertain Nebraska on Saturday afternoon.

“It would be a great accomplishment for this team to say we won 20 games,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said Friday at a news conference in the Media Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “At the same time, you don’t really want to celebrate that too much because it’s just the next step in the journey, and we have a long way to go this year.”

Iowa (19-11, 8-8) hosts Nebraska (14-16, 5-12) at 1:21 p.m. (CT) Saturday on Mediacom Court. A win would give the Hawkeyes their first 20-win season since 2005-06 and give McCaffery 300 victories for his career.

“You try to put the emotions aside and go out there and take care of business, have fun and play like we’re capable of. Once tipoff comes, it is game time.”
Senior Eric May on Senior Day

All eyes will be on senior Eric May during the contest, as the Dubuque, Iowa, native will be playing his final regular season game. Senior Christopher Rickert, who spent the last two years as a walk-on, will also be recognized in a pregame ceremony.

“It’ll be a little different (in being the lone senior),” said May. “Jarryd Cole had the same situation, and it turned out pretty good for him. I have had a great time at Iowa, and I expect the crowd to be crazy, and it will be a good environment.”

The finality still hasn’t hit May.

“Today it is trying to lock into practice, and I think it will hit a little harder tomorrow,” he said. “You try to put the emotions aside and go out there and take care of business, have fun and play like we’re capable of. Once tipoff comes, it is game time.”

McCaffery says May has always been a superb athlete and a hard worker, but he has gone through a transformation as a senior.

“What you’re seeing is a guy who used to be pretty good, but would make mistakes,” said McCaffery. “Now he’s really good. That has been the transformation for him. He always has given us effort and been a winning, unselfish person.”

After averaging a career-low 4.3 points and shooting 38.4 percent as a junior, May has posted some of the best numbers of his career in 2012-13, while serving as Iowa’s team captain.

“Everybody had kind of written him off,” said McCaffery. “It’s a great example for the other guys to watch somebody to continue to persevere through injury and some other obstacles to become what he has become.”

Junior Roy Devyn Marble will likely hit a personal milestone Saturday, needing just two points to become the 41st Hawkeye to reach 1,000 career points. He and his father, Roy Marble — Iowa’s all-time leading scorer — will become the first father-son duo in Big Ten history to both reach the 1,000-point milestone.

“It’s cool to be able change the game a little bit with a different kind of trend,” said Marble. “At the end of the day, all those accomplishments won’t mean much if you don’t win. We have to come out focused and prepared, definitely mentally, better than we did when we were there.”

Nebraska rallied from a 19-point deficit to down the Hawkeye, 64-60, Feb. 21 in Lincoln. To Iowa’s advantage, the Hawkeyes will have a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the fourth time this season to help the team improve on its 15-2 home record.

“The fans feel as though they’ve had something to do with the success, and they should because our home performance has been tremendous,” said McCaffery. “To know that we’re going to have a sellout Saturday is a great feeling, more so for Eric May than anybody else.”

Freshman Mike Gesell, who has missed the past three games with a foot injury, is progressing, but his status for the 2013 Big Ten Tournament is still in question.

“He is walking without the boot, riding the bike without the boot and over the course of the weekend, he’ll start running and shooting,” said McCaffery. “It’s baby steps. If he’s OK today, we’ll do a little more and a little more, and he’ll play next week. I am guarded in that respect because there is no guarantee.”

Saturday’s game will be televised on the Big Ten Network with Wayne Larrivee and Shon Morris calling the action.