Jan. 16, 2015
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team is preparing for a different Ohio State team than the one it faced 17 days ago in its Big Ten opener — a 71-65 win in Columbus.
“Everything (has changed about them),” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said during a Friday news conference in the Press Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “They don’t play zone (defense) anymore, it’s all man-to-man.”
The 25th-ranked Buckeyes played exclusively zone defense until switching to man late in the Dec. 30 matchup against the Hawkeyes. In their next game against Illinois, Ohio State changed defenses again in the first half and have been a man-to-man team since.
“They’re going to pressure us, similar to what we saw at Minnesota,” said junior guard Mike Gesell. “They want to get up and make it uncomfortable for you. We’ll be ready for that.”
Ohio State is 3-1 since making the switch, posting wins over Illinois (77-61) and at Minnesota (74-72 in overtime), falling 69-66 at Indiana on Jan. 10 before walloping Michigan (71-52) on Jan. 13 in Columbus. The Buckeyes are 14-4 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten.
Iowa is one of five teams with one loss in Big Ten play, sitting at 3-1 in the conference following its 77-75 victory at Minnesota on Tuesday. McCaffery liked the toughness the Hawkeyes displayed in the win, but he seeks more consistency.
“The fact that we fought through is a testament to our team’s character,” he said. “I was proud of how we fought because even though we weren’t stopping them, we kept scoring. When you give up a 17 point lead and go down four, a lot of teams are going to lose that game, and we didn’t.
“It shows that we have enough toughness, and we got enough stops when we needed them.”
McCaffery says junior Jarrod Uthoff has taken another step forward and is displaying the type of confidence the team needs out of him. Uthoff hit the game-winning field goal against the Gophers and is averaging a team-high 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in league play while shooting 50 percent from the floor.
“He has been good since the first minute he got here, but he has gradually gotten better,” said McCaffery. “He has gradually gotten more comfortable and gotten more confidence.”
McCaffery says the program will seek a medical redshirt for freshman guard Brady Ellingson. The Wisconsin native has appeared in seven games this season after working his way back from a foot injury.
“From the minute he got here in June, he hasn’t been 100 percent,” said McCaffery. “He tried to get better, had surgery, and tried to come back, and then he had a setback.
“It is the right move for him and the right move for our program. Next year he’s going to be a good player for us.”
Saturday’s game against Ohio State is sold out — it’s Iowa’s second sellout of the season.
“Our fans are amazing,” he said. “Every home win that we’ve had, they have been a big part of in terms of the energy level in the building, and hopefully it’ll be the same way on Saturday.”
Saturday’s game will tip off at 1:05 p.m. (CT), and it will be televised on ESPN with Bob Wischusen and Dan Dakich on the call.