Dec. 16, 2015
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team is looking to move on from a tough loss to one in-state rival by gearing up for another.
The Hawkeyes travel to Des Moines, Iowa, to face Drake on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (CT) at Wells Fargo Arena in the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic. Iowa State and Northern Iowa, the other two Division I basketball programs in the state, meet on the same court at 6 p.m.
The Cyclones beat the Hawkeyes on their final possession six days ago, but despite the long layoff between contests, Iowa isn’t dwelling on former shortcomings.
“You have to get back to work and do whatever we can to improve in whatever way we can,” said senior Jarrod Uthoff.
“We’ve come in (this week) with the mindset that we need to get better and improve in late game situations. We’ve lost a couple close games and I think we’re going to get better and better as the year progresses.”
Progress, whether following a win or loss, is what Fran McCaffery wants to see from his team that will have had nine days, including a week of finals, to move past the final result in Ames.
“I look at the situation as the next game on our schedule. We have to play well,” said McCaffery. “We want to win to get better. We’re playing a really good team that we have a lot of respect for in an excellent environment. Whether you win or you lose, you’ve got to move on.”
Drake is 4-6 overall with three consecutive losses, but the Bulldogs have played in close games and boast a deep rotation of players led by Reed Timmer, who averages 19 points per contest.
“(Timmer) is terrific,” said McCaffery, “but I think what makes him so good is (Kale) Abrahamson and (Graham) Woodward are equally talented. Offensively they can all kind of get their own. They run stuff for them. (Ray Giacoletti) does a really good job of going to them and mixing it up.”
The first time Iowa lost this season was in the opening round of the Advocare Invitational. Iowa fell to Dayton, 82-77, one day before losing to No. 17 Notre Dame, 68-62. The Hawkeyes responded two days later with their most impressive win of the season, 84-61, over No. 20 Wichita State.
This time around the players have had more time following a loss to digest what went well and how they can improve.
Where does that happen?
“Practice,” said Uthoff.
“Being more mentally tough. When we need a shot, we get a shot and not turn the ball over. Get a good shot every possession.”
That strategy should prove beneficial for a team that has averaged 85.8 points over the last five games, and will likely hit the floor at Wells Fargo Arena eager to shoot following a nine-day layoff. It’s also their last chance, barring a postseason matchup, at flexing their muscles against an in-state school and four in-state fan bases.
“It’s one of the best events to be in,” said Anthony Clemmons. “To be a part of it and have all four schools there is something positive throughout the state.”
“I think it’s a great day for college basketball in the state,” said McCaffery.
Iowa and Drake will be streamed live on ESPN3. Gary Dolphin and Bob Hansen will have the call on the Hawkeye Radio Network.