By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Thursday’s Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series matchup against Iowa State is more than just the next game for the 18th-ranked University of Iowa men’s basketball team.
It’s a rivalry game.
“It’s one of those games that carries a lot more weight than a lot of games,” said junior guard Jordan Bohannon. “No matter what kind of season you have, a lot of people look to this game on who won or lost. Knowing the next game is Iowa State, it means a lot more to us.”
Thursday’s game will tipoff at 7:01 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Approximately 1,500 tickets remain through the Iowa Athletics Ticket Office at hawkeyesports.com/tickets.
Iowa’s roster is dominated with players from the Hawkeye State. Nine of the 16 players on the roster are native Iowans including Nicholas Baer and Michael Baer (Bettendorf), Joe Wieskamp (Muscatine) Austin Ash (Cedar Rapids), Ryan Kriener (Spirit Lake), Riley Till (Dubuque), Connor McCaffery (Iowa City), Cordell Pemsl (Dubuque), and Bohannon (Marion).
“Growing up, watching this rivalry since I was a kid, it’s a moment I have dreamed of in the driveway, counting down the shot clock against Iowa State,” said Till. “In whatever capacity I get in (Thursday), I am going to do whatever I can to help our team win.”
Till’s contributions in the Iowa rotation could be amplified against the Cyclones. Wieskamp, the Hawkeyes’ starting small forward, sprained his ankle in Monday’s road loss at Michigan State. He didn’t practice Tuesday.
“It’s getting better,” said Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery. “There just isn’t a lot of time between games.”
With Wieskamp’s status as questionable, Till is set for an increased role.
“I feel good about that because he has worked to get to that point,” said Fran McCaffery. “It’s not like it just fell to him because of the circumstances. He earned it.
“He’s an athlete, in his third year, and he’s physically ready to do some things that he wouldn’t have been able to two years ago. He’s smart, has that savvy, and he can score. He’s not a shooter, but he can score — he can go baseline and finish, score in transition, and take it and dunk it.”
Iowa State brings a 7-1 record into Iowa City with its lone loss to Arizona in Hawaii on Nov. 17. The Cyclones average 80 points and have four players scoring in double figures if you count injured guard Lindell Wigginton.
“I have been impressed with their team, in particular their ball movement,” said Fran McCaffery. “They have a lot of weapons and they are getting great play from their guys off the bench.
“They present great challenges because they can go big, but they can also go small and play four guards.”
Virginia transfer Marial Shayok leads the team in scoring at 19.4 points, while Nebraska transfer Michael Jacobson is averaging 16.8 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Talen Horton-Tucker averages 14.5 points and six rebounds, while guard Nick Weiler-Babb adds 9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game.
The home team in the rivalry has won 13 of the last 15 meetings in the series dating back to 2004. The Hawkeyes are 28-7 in games in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but the teams have split the last four meetings in Iowa City.
“I am excited to play in the environment,” said Connor McCafery. “I have seen these games for so long, having the type of crowd that will be here, it’s going to be live. I am excited for that.”
“We know Carver is going to be rocking,” said Bohannon. “Just like it was against Pitt and Wisconsin. We’re looking forward to it.”
Thursday’s game will be televised nationally on FS1 with Brandon Gaudin and Andy Katz on the call.