March 4, 2014
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team is preparing for a different Michigan State team than the one that downed the Hawkeyes, 71-69 in overtime, Jan. 28 in Iowa City.
When the Hawkeyes take the court Thursday night in the Breslin Center — a place Iowa hasn’t won since 1993 — the Spartans will be playing at full strength with center Adrien Payne and forward Brandon Dawson back from injuries.
“There is a little bit of an adjustment period (with their return), but ultimately, they are better,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said during a Tuesday news conference inside the Media Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “You’re talking about a couple of the premier players in our league, so they’re going to impact the game in a positive way.”
Payne missed seven games from Jan. 11 to Feb. 1. Since his return, he has scored in double figures in 6-of-7 games, averaging 15.1 points, but he was limited to five points in a 53-46 home loss to Illinois on March 1. Dawson saw his first action since Jan. 21 against the Illini, finishing with six points and seven rebounds.
Michigan State has dropped three of its last four games, including its last two home games to Nebraska and Illinois. The Spartans are 22-7 overall and tied for second in the Big Ten with an 11-5 record.
“There’s no question they are going to go at it and that’s what you expect from two great players.”
UI head coach Fran McCaffery on Thursday’s marquee matchup between Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble and MSU’s Gary Harris
Thursday’s marquee matchup will be at the shooting guard position pitting Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble against the Spartans’ Gary Harris. Marble finished with 21 points and five rebounds against Michigan State on Jan. 28, while limiting Harris to a season-low nine points and six rebounds.
“There’s no question they are going to go at it and that’s what you expect from two great players,” said McCaffery.
Marble ranks fifth in the Big Ten in scoring at 17.1 points per game; Harris is second at 17.9 points. Marble is fourth in the league with 1.9 steals per game; Harris is second with two per contest.
With two games in the regular season remaining prior to postseason play; McCaffery says the playing time distribution in Iowa’s 11-man rotation could be tightened.
“It’s going to be a function of who is healthy and who is playing well, that day or week,” he said. “(Anthony) Clemmons played well against Minnesota, he was given a shot and played well.
“When Basabe wasn’t able to go, that’s more opportunity for (Gabe) Olaseni, (Zach) McCabe and Jarrod Uthoff, and sometimes that means Aaron White plays more in the post, things of that nature. You adjust.”
McCaffery says he is thrilled with Uthoff’s production — 7.9 points, 4.7 rebounds — in his first year as a Hawkeye, but thinks the sophomore has the ability to double them.
“He’s that talented,” said McCaffery. “You’re seeing little-by-little him be more aggressive. I’d like to see him shoot more 3s, but I respect the fact he is a team player. He moves it on and doesn’t play crazy. He’s out there under control and trying to do things to help our team win.
“We forget this is his first year through and his first time through the wars in this league, and he’s doing extremely well.”
Michigan State has won the last 17 games over Iowa in East Lansing, and the Hawkeyes are 2-19 at the Breslin Center since it opened in 1989-90. Overall, the Spartans have won 12-of-13 in the series with the last three contests being decided by three points or less.
Thursday’s game will begin at 8:05 p.m. (CT), and it will be televised on ESPN with Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale calling the action.