Hawkeyes Ready for Tough Big Four Challenge

Dec. 18, 2014

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IOWA CITY, Iowa —The University of Iowa men’s basketball team puts its perfect record in the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic on the line Saturday when it faces Northern Iowa at approximately 6:30 p.m. (CT) at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.

This could be the Hawkeyes’ toughest test in the series that includes wins against Northern Iowa (80-73 in 2012) and Drake (83-66 in 2013). UI head coach Fran McCaffery says the 9-1 Panthers are “one of the best teams on our schedule.” Iowa is 8-3.


“They have pieces that fit,” McCaffery said Thursday at a news conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “They have quickness in the back court, shooters on the perimeter, and big guys that can shoot the ball.”

Iowa leads the all-time series 34-9; the teams have split the last 12 games.

Senior center Gabriel Olaseni will be in the Hawkeye lineup after flying home to London on Dec. 13 for four days to attend his father’s memorial service. Olaseni is the top scorer off Iowa’s bench; through 11 games he averages 17.5 minutes, 8.5 points, and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 59 percent from the field.

“He deserves to play more minutes,” McCaffery said. “He has played well enough to get more minutes and I have to figure a way to get him in.”

McCaffery was also asked about sophomore Peter Jok, who in his last outing, scored 14 points with six rebounds, and three assists in a career-high 25 minutes. McCaffery said the Hawkeyes become a better team when players like Jok, Anthony Clemmons, Josh Oglesby, and Trey Dickerson take steps forward like Jok has done.

With two nonconference games remaining in the regular season, the Hawkeyes are allowing 58.1 points per game, while opponents are shooting 35.6 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point. Last season Iowa allowed 70.3 points per game and opponents shot 41.5 percent from the field and 31.7 from 3.

“At some point you have to decide, are we going to be a team that stops people or are we going to be a team that trades baskets?” McCaffery said. “I’m proud of our guys in the sense that they are playing better defense.”

McCaffery is “indifferent” on the Big Four Classic, but says it is great for the state of Iowa. “To me, it’s the next game on the schedule,” he said. “It’s always going to be (against) a good team.”

The Hawkeyes used the first two days of the week to concentrate solely on academics. This will be Iowa’s first game since falling at home to Iowa State, 90-75, on Dec. 12. McCaffery is pleased with how the team has responded.

“They were great and very professional,” McCaffery said. “We didn’t play well in the last game. I would like to think if we did play well, we would still be professional in how you approach the next practice, knowing that you have another great team coming up in the next game.”

The Iowa-Northern Iowa game is the second game of the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic doubleheader. Drake (2-8) and Iowa State (8-1) play at 4 p.m.

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