Feb. 21, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — For the past three days, the talk surrounding the University of Iowa men’s basketball team was about a game that didn’t take place. Now it’s on to No. 16/18 Wisconsin.
“The importance of this game hasn’t changed, regardless of what happened on Tuesday,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said during a news conference in the Media Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Whether we played, didn’t play, won or lost, it’s a big game.”
Wisconsin enters Saturday’s game winning four straight contests, including road victories at Illinois and Michigan, to improve to 21-5 overall. The Badgers are in fourth place in the Big Ten standings at 8-5; Iowa is in third place at 8-4, one game back in the loss column behind Michigan and Michigan State.
“We respect how Wisconsin is playing, they’re playing well. We’ve been playing well when we’ve played. We’ve had a little more time off, but I think both teams are going to play hard tomorrow, it’s that simple.”
UI head coach Fran McCaffery
“We respect how Wisconsin is playing, they’re playing well,” he said. “We’ve been playing well when we’ve played. We’ve had a little more time off, but I think both teams are going to play hard tomorrow, it’s that simple.”
McCaffery’s says the key to Wisconsin’s four-game winning streak as opposed to the stretch where it lost 5-of-6 games from Jan. 14 to Feb. 1 is simple.
“They weren’t making shots, now they’re making shots,” he said. “(Frank) Kaminsky has stepped up his game, (Sam) Dekker and (Josh) Gasser are playing well, (Ben) Brust is their leading scorer, and Nigel Hayes has amped up his game.
“They have so many different weapons, whether it is from the 3-point line or in the post. They’ve got different ways they can score and experience.”
In a year where the Hawkeyes have dealt with a handful of travel issues and the arena snafu at Assembly Hall, McCaffery says the players have done a good job of not letting it affect them.
“We never make a big deal about it,” said McCaffery. “(The players) don’t make a big deal about it. It’s on to the next. Big win, on to the next; tough loss, on to the next.
“If you overanalyze or overreact, it’s going to be a nightmare season for them. My job is to keep them on an even keel and get them prepared and ready, and that’s what we do.”
McCaffery defended his reaction toward a fan that was critical of senior Zach McCabe during his weekly radio show.
“(McCabe) is going to score 900 points and get 500 rebounds, and he’s trying to rip the kid on my radio show,” said McCaffery. “That’s not going to happen, not on my show.
“He has been a terrific player for us for four years, a great teammate, and tremendous captain. He has won games for us, and I use him in so many different ways. You have to appreciate what a guy brings to the table every day. He comes with it, gives me everything he has with a tremendous attitude and support of all of his teammates. You’re not going to bad mouth him, not in front of me.”
The Indiana game has been rescheduled for Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. (CT) in Bloomington, while Iowa’s home game against Purdue was pushed back a day from March 1 to Sunday, March 2 — a move McCaffery appreciates.
“That was a professional thing, and I really appreciate that by the administration,” he said. “(Purdue head coach Matt Painter’s) willingness to play the game on Sunday, under the circumstances, we all appreciate the professionalism there.”
Saturday’s game against Wisconsin will tip at 11:02 a.m. (CT), and it will be televised live on ESPN2 with Bob Wischusen and Dan Dakich on the call. Fans are encouraged to wear gold clothing for “Be Bold, Wear Gold”, and be in their seats by 10:45 a.m. for instructions for the inaugural card stunt in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.