Jan. 26, 2016
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Togetherness, chemistry, and confidence has propelled the University of Iowa men’s basketball team into the top four of national rankings.
The Hawkeyes have won nine straight to move to No. 3 in The Associated Press and No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Iowa heads east for a top-10 showdown against No. 7/8 Maryland on Thursday at 6:05 p.m. (CT) at the XFINITY Center.
“This is a group that enjoys each other and respects each other,” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said Tuesday during a news conference inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “They share the ball, help each other, and don’t ever get down on themselves or each other.
“They don’t get too down on themselves after a loss or too full of themselves after a win.”
It will be Iowa’s first trip to College Park in school history.
“We have to stay true to ourselves and play up to our capabilities,” said UI senior forward Jarrod Uthoff. “Maryland is a good team; we have to do what we do.”
“We have to stay true to ourselves and play up to our capabilities. Maryland is a good team; we have to do what we do.”
Senior Jarrod Uthoff
The Terrapins, preseason Big Ten Conference favorites, are 17-3 overall and 6-2 in league play — sitting third in the standings. Maryland fell at 10th ranked Michigan State, 74-65, on Jan. 23; its first conference loss came Jan. 12 at Michigan.
Maryland is undefeated in 11 games at the XFINITY Center this season, averaging 80 points per game. The Terrapins do it with balance with five players averaging double figures, led by sophomore guard Melo Trimble (14.5 points per game).
“(Trimble) is just as dangerous when he’s looking for shots for himself as he is when he’s loading other people up,” said McCaffery. “Those are the toughest guys to guard, especially when they can stop behind a screen and make a 3; he can put up points in a hurry.”
Trimble has six 20-point games and a team-best 112 assists in 20 games, averaging 5.6 per game. He is shooting 47.2 percent from the field.
“He’s a tough guard because he’s finding people now,” said UI senior guard Anthony Clemmons, who will likely draw the defensive assignment on Trimble to start the game. “Early in his freshman year, he wasn’t as crisp with his bounce passes. Now he’s making those passes and still scoring 20. You have to disrupt him and make sure he doesn’t get his glue guys going.”
Maryland shoots better than 50 percent from the field, ranking No. 2 in the Big Ten. Along with Trimble, Robert Carter (13.2 points), Diamond Stone (13.2), Jake Layman (10.7), and Rasheed Sulaimon (10.3) all average in double figures and all shoot better than 46 percent from the field.
Iowa’s task of heading to a new venue at Maryland for a nationally-televised game on ESPN doesn’t seem to faze the Hawkeyes. Iowa understands how to win on the road.
The Hawkeyes won seven road games, going 7-14, during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Iowa matched that win total in 2015 with seven wins in 10 games. The team is 11-4 in its last 15 road contests, and the senior class has won at least once in 12 Big Ten arenas.
“We have guys that have been through it,” said Clemmons. “We know what we have to do and when you’re in a hostile environment, all you can do is stay poised.”
And stay together.
It’s why the Hawkeyes are off to their best Big Ten start in 46 years.