Dec. 1, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There are road games, and there are games in the Dean Dome.
There are Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, and there is North Carolina.
There are televised games, and there is playing on ESPN.
It adds up to a special Wednesday for the University of Iowa men’s basketball team when it plays the No. 12 Tar Heels in the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, as part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:32 p.m. (CT), and it will be televised by the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said Monday at a news conference inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Any time you play in this Challenge, you’re going to play a terrific opponent, but everybody knows that Carolina is a little different.
“It’s a nationally televised game on ESPN. It’s a great opportunity for our guys to put together a game plan and try to go on the road and beat a (top-12) team in a difficult environment.”
The Hawkeyes, who are 2-1 all-time against North Carolina, have won just three of 13 games in the Challenge. They were victorious last season over Notre Dame, 98-93.
It will be Iowa’s third game against a team ranked in the top 23 this season. The Hawkeyes (5-2 overall) have won three games in a row after falling to No. 10 Texas (71-57) and No. 23 Syracuse (66-63) in the 2K Classic in New York City.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity. Any time you play in this Challenge, you’re going to play a terrific opponent, but everybody knows that Carolina is a little different.”
UI head basketball coach
McCaffery said that no team is where it wants to be after seven games, even if it is undefeated. For the Hawkeyes, that means becoming better offensively. Iowa averages 73.7 points per game, but McCaffery would like to see shooting percentages increase.
“Our execution hasn’t been too bad, our shooting hasn’t been great,” McCaffery said.
The Hawkeyes have made 43.2 percent of their field goals, 34.3 form 3-point range, and 72.9 percent from the line. During a 77-44 win against Longwood on Nov. 29, Iowa’s bench owned a scoring advantage of 40-7.
“Pretty much everybody is playing pretty well,” McCaffery said. “Some guys aren’t playing up to their expectations or what our expectations were for them, but it’s still early, and we’ve got time.”
McCaffery has stuck with the same starting lineup all season: senior Aaron White and junior Jarrod Uthoff at forward, junior Adam Woodbury at center, and juniors Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell at guard. Seeing the most time off the bench against Longwood were senior Gabriel Olaseni (23 minutes), freshman Dom Uhl (22), senior Josh Oglesby (21) and sophomore Trey Dickerson (19).
“Coming off the bench, you’ve got to be careful,” McCaffery said. “Do you go wholesale substitutions or do you sub them in one at a time? It’s going to be a game-by-game thing and a feel how we utilize those guys off the bench.”
On Nov. 26, Olaseni learned of his father’s death. He is expected to play against North Carolina, then return to England for memorial services.
“We’ll accommodate his wishes, whatever he wants to do,” McCaffery said. “We’ll get him home, we’ll get him back, whatever is comfortable for him and his family.”