Jan. 29, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Whether the University of Iowa men's basketball team is 2-5 in Big Ten play or if they were 5-2, the Hawkeyes will approach each game with the same mindset, the same urgency.
"We have to take the exact same approach," McCaffery said during his Tuesday news conference in the Media Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "It's still a grind, we still have a ton of road games coming up. These are the dog days, when you get into February, and that's what's going to separate the teams that are playing well in March and the teams that don't."
Winning on the road in the Big Ten Conference is a challenge. Winning a road game when you shoot under 35 percent is nearly impossible.
Iowa shot 35 percent in a 72-63 road loss at No. 14 Ohio State on Jan. 22. The squad connected on 31 percent of its attempts in the 65-62 overtime loss at Purdue on Jan. 27.
"It's frustrating because the guys have really battled for us," said McCaffery of his team's shooting woes. "We are in a position to win all these games. If we win some of those, we would probably be ranked. That's what I want.
"We've closed the gap, there's no question about that. Now you want to see them (the team) enjoy the fruits of all that hard work."
UI head coach Fran McCaffery
"When they are competing that hard for me and preparing the way they are, and it's just a couple of missed shots."
"It's frustrating, especially for guys that shoot the ball well and know they can shoot the ball well," said junior Roy Devyn Marble. "It is helping us that we have actually been playing some defense. It has really been keeping us in games and giving us chances to win at the end.
"That's what you have to ask for out of your team when you're not shooting the ball well is getting stops and the key rebound. If we keep doing that, the shots are going to fall. They're going to have to."
Over the last month, the Hawkeyes have faced the most difficult schedule in the country according to Ken Pomeroy at kenpom.com. The Hawkeyes have faced four ranked opponents and have played 4-of-7 games away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa is 2-5 during the stretch with four games being decided by four or fewer points.
"We've closed the gap, there's no question about that," said McCaffery. "Now you want to see them (the team) enjoy the fruits of all that hard work."
Junior Melsahn Basabe has played 27 and 31 minutes during the last two games, where he's averaging 9.5 points and nine rebounds. His performance could force McCaffery to alter his starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 1.
"It's not as simple as it may appear," said McCaffery. "He's playing well. The logical conclusion is we'll put him in the starting lineup. It may be the right thing for the team or it may not be because he's playing the best basketball the last two years coming off the bench."
It makes no difference to Basabe as long as he gets his minutes on the court.
"All I want to do is what the coaches need to do and help the team win," said Basabe. "It doesn't matter how I am doing it, as long as I come in the game, am playing with energy and being effective."
A portion of the news conference focused on freshman guard Mike Gesell, who received the the first A- of his life during Iowa's first semester.
"I was very disappointed in him," McCaffery said jokingly. "He wasn't happy with it at all. He's not used to that."
Joking aside, McCaffery says Gesell is the type of player he wants in his program.
"That's what we try to recruit," he said. "You're not always going to get a 4.0, but (you want) the guys that you don't worry about when they are not in front of you. Those are the kind of guys you win with, and that's what he is."
Despite coming into Thursday's game with an 0-8 Big Ten record, and without the services of their top player Tim Frazier, McCaffery says Penn State has taken on the persona of its head coach, Pat Chambers.
"They are going to battle as hard and as long as anybody else in college basketball," said McCaffery. "That's who he (Pat) is and what he has been trying to do with that program. That's been the theme and mantra that they follow. You know if the ball is on the floor, they are going down to get it. It's not going to be rolling around there very long."
Iowa leads the all-time series over the Nittany Lions, 23-13, but have split the last eight meetings. Iowa won 77-64 last season in Iowa City, but fell 69-64 in State College.
Thursday's game is set to begin at 7:02 p.m. (CT), and it will be televised on the Big Ten Network with Dan Gutowsky and Adrian Branch calling the action.