By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa junior Tyler Cook says good teams bounce back.
The last time the University of Iowa men’s basketball team suffered a loss — a 98-84 setback at No. 9/8 Michigan State on Dec. 3 — the Hawkeyes returned to Carver-Hawkeye Arena three days later and won convincingly, 98-84, in an Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series victory against Iowa State.
Following Thursday’s 86-70 road setback at Purdue, the Hawkeyes are looking for a repeat of early December in the first week of January.
“It was a rough one (at Purdue),” said Cook, who finished with a game-high 24 points for his third 20-point game of the season. “We’ll work on our play on the road, but the only thing we can focus on is our next game and we have a quick turnaround. We’ll be ready Sunday.”
The Hawkeyes host No. 24/23 Nebraska at 4:31 p.m. (CT) Sunday on Mediacom Court. Iowa is 11-3 overall, but winless in three games in Big Ten Conference play.
“We have dug ourselves a hole,” said sophomore Luka Garza. “We are of a mindset that we have to push out of that. Every game is important for us right now. They are always important, but we need to get better every game from here on out.
“We need to come out with better focus and all have focus of being better on the road. We’ll take care of that during our next road game (Jan. 9 at Northwestern). We’re going to take care of Nebraska on Sunday and then keep pushing forward.”
The Huskers are in a similar boat as Iowa.
Nebraska has an identical 11-3 record, but the team is 1-2 in Big Ten play. The Huskers lost 74-72 at Maryland on Jan. 2 after splitting early-season games at home against Illinois (W, 75-60) and falling at Minnesota (L, 85-78).
Four Nebraska players average double figures with James Palmer leading the team and ranking second in the Big Ten with a 20.1 scoring average. The Huskers are third in the league in scoring offense (79.6 points), while ranking second in scoring defense (59.0) and field goal percentage defense (.381).
“Nebraska is a veteran group that’s very talented,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said during a Friday news conference. “They played well last year when they had new faces.
“Everybody understands their role and they have a team of pieces that fit. They have guys that can go get a bucket, score in transition and in set plays. From my estimation, they’re an unselfish group and are committed to winning.”
Senior Nicholas Baer calls Iowa’s 0-3 start a tough pill to swallow, but the Hawkeyes have learned from the setbacks and are moving forward.
“We can’t do anything about those last three games,” said Baer. “We’re learning from them and moving forward. We know we have a tough Nebraska team coming in and we’re looking forward to another opportunity.
“When you look at our season so far, every time we’ve come back from a bad loss, we have usually responded well. I am looking forward to another good response against Nebraska.”
Sunday’s game will be televised to a national audience on BTN with Kevin Kugler and Shon Morris on the call. Tickets are available through the Iowa Athletics Ticket Office at hawkeyesports.com/tickets.
By JAMES ALLAN