Quest for Toughness Continues
Jan. 8, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The next game.
In the Big Ten Conference, it could be any opponent...Wisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota, Illinois...you name it, you're in for a battle.
In the case of the University of Iowa, the next game is Thursday, Jan. 10, against No. 18 Michigan State -- the third top 20 test for the Hawkeyes in three games. On the plus side, it will be played on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where Iowa is 9-1 this season.
"Once you get into this league, the next game, no matter who it is, is going to be a really good team," UI head men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery said Tuesday. "Anything short of our best, we're not going to win. It doesn't matter that it's Michigan State in my opinion."
McCaffery gathered with reporters in the Media Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena two days after the Hawkeyes dropped to 11-4 overall, 0-2 in the Big Ten. Michigan State is 12-3, 1-1. The last time these teams played in Iowa City, Iowa won 72-52 on Feb. 2, 2011.
A good portion of Tuesday's news conference was spent dissecting a 95-67 loss at No. 2 Michigan on Jan. 6. McCaffery said he might adjust the starting lineup if he doesn't see improved toughness against the Spartans.
"That's a legitimate question, I think I would," McCaffery replied when asked what would happen if he didn't see improved toughness Thursday. "It's hard sometimes. Let's say the two biggest culprits are your two leading scorers, which is arguably what the case was in our last game. That's a dilemma. When (Roy Devyn) Marble and (Aaron) White are struggling defensively, we still have to have scorers. That makes the decision a lot more complicated, but it may come to that."
McCaffery said it took "about twice as long" to break down game film against Michigan, but he had plenty of teaching points to pass onto Hawkeye players.
"We're showing good plays (and telling the players), `This is exactly what we want to do and what we talked about doing and you couldn't have executed it any better,'" McCaffery said. "If we do that, then why can't we keep doing that? We might have five positive phenomenal teaching points in a row, then there might be eight or nine mistakes in a row."
McCaffery said the Hawkeyes played well for the first 19 minutes at Michigan, then he wondered why they couldn't continue at that rate "for 38 minutes, 40 minutes."
Michigan State has won four in a row in the series, but the Hawkeyes won by 20 during the last meeting in Iowa City. Thursday's game will be televised on ESPN2 with Joe Tessitore and Sean Farnham calling the action. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:02 p.m. (CT). It is the only regular-season meeting between the teams.
The Spartans are 1-2 in true road contests this season; they rank 14th in the country in field goal percentage defense (.370) and 15th in rebounding margin (plus-9).