Jan. 4, 2016
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — For the first time this season, the University of Iowa men’s basketball team finds itself in the national rankings, but don’t tell the Hawkeyes.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” said senior Jarrod Uthoff. “The only ranking that matters is at the end of the year.”
“It is just a bigger target on our back,” said senior Adam Woodbury. “People always see the number and want to judge us by where we’re ranked. It doesn’t matter. You have to win, that’s all that matters.”
The Hawkeyes catapulted into the polls with a dynamic week. Iowa handed No. 1 Michigan State an 83-70 defeat on Dec. 29 before rallying from a 19-point deficit to win for the first time since 2006 at No. 14 Purdue on Jan. 2.
The result is a No. 19 national ranking by The Associated Press and No. 23 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. It is Iowa’s first ranking since Week 11 of the 2014-15 season.
“Nobody gave us a chance or thought we’d be 2-0 (in the league) except for the 15 guys in our locker room. We have to stay together no matter what anybody says. We have to go out and play to the best of our abilities.”
UI senior Adam Woodbury
“Nobody gave us a chance or thought we’d be 2-0 (in the league) except for the 15 guys in our locker room,” said Woodbury. “We have to stay together no matter what anybody says. We have to go out and play to the best of our abilities.”
The Hawkeyes entertain Nebraska on Tuesday at 8:06 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court. Iowa has won four straight and five of the last six meetings in the series. But this is the Big Ten, where any team can win on any given night.
“We’re beyond taking anybody lightly,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said during a Monday news conference inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “Our guys know (Nebraska’s) Shavon Shields, he came in here last year and got 25 (points). We know what he’s capable of doing.
“(Andrew) White III is averaging 17 (points per game), (Michael) Jacobson is stepping up, and (Glynn) Watson has been terrific. (Tai) Webster and Benny Parker are playing better than last year. They have a lot more weapons to go with two big-time scorers.”
White III, a transfer from Kansas, is averaging 17.3 points, shooting 51.2 percent from the field, and 43.5 percent from 3-point range. Shields is averaging 15.4 points with a 45.9 field goal percentage.
Senior Anthony Clemmons will be a game-time decision against Nebraska after suffering a hip injury in the closing minutes at Purdue.
“I think he’ll play, but it hasn’t been determined yet,” said McCaffery. “He’s feeling better today than he did yesterday.”
If Clemmons can’t go, it will increase the importance of freshmen guards Andrew Fleming and Christian Williams. Williams would likely see more time at point guard.
“We’ve had tremendous bench play, and I think guys will set up just like they have all year,” said Uthoff. “We’ll miss Clemmons if he can’t play, but we have guys that can step up.”
Fleming has appeared in eight games, averaging 2.8 points; Williams has played 45 minutes over nine contests.
Tickets are available for Tuesday’s game through the UI Athletics Ticket Office at 800-IA-HAWKS or by logging on to hawkeyesports.com. The game will be televised on BTN with Dave Revsine and Shon Morris on the call.