Feb. 4, 2008
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Responding well to a tough defeat has been a trademark of the University of Iowa men's basketball team. Now the Hawkeyes hope to respond following an impressive victory when they host No. 13 Wisconsin on Wednesday, Feb. 6, with an 8:05 tip inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"We have to come back and respond to a little bit of success we had on Saturday and play better," UI head coach Todd Lickliter said Monday at his weekly press conference. "We had enough belief, focus and commitment to come back and play well (against Ohio State last Saturday). It would be easy for an individual or a team to be somewhat deflated after what has happened to us occasionally. This is a tough league and we're playing good teams, so you get beat, what do you do? We have responded by being able to play well the next game. (In Wisconsin) we're playing one of the best teams in the nation."
The Hawkeyes, who have won three of their last four at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, are coming off a 53-48 win over the Buckeyes on Feb. 2. Iowa is looking for its first two-game winning streak since defeating Eastern Illinois on Dec. 1 and Northern Iowa on Dec. 5. Since a 31-point loss on Jan. 9 at Ohio State, the Hawkeyes have alternated a win with a loss during their next seven outings.
Jan. 12 at Michigan State (43-36 win), Jan. 16 vs. Purdue (67-62 loss), Jan. 19 at Michigan (68-60 win), Jan. 23 at Indiana (65-43 loss), Jan. 26 vs. Penn State (64-49 win), Jan. 30 at Purdue (51-50 loss), Feb. 2 vs. Ohio State (53-48 win).
The Wisconsin-Iowa battle will feature the top two defenses in the Big Ten Conference. The Badgers (18-3 overall, 8-1 Big Ten) allow 54.1 points per game, followed by Iowa (11-12, 4-6), which surrenders just 57.3 points per game. Wisconsin won the first meeting 64-51 on Jan. 5 in Madison.
"Wisconsin's as good as everybody says," Lickliter said. "They space the floor extremely well and play great position defense. They play high-percentage basketball and they get to the line a great deal more than anyone else in the league."
In nine league games, the Badgers have attempted 186 free throws, which is tied with Illinois and second only to Penn State's 193. Wisconsin has won 12 of its last 13 games. The Badgers are led in scoring by Trevon Hughes (13.6 points per game), Brian Butch (12.8) and Marcus Landry (11.0). Hughes leads the Big Ten with 2.3 steals per game.
In conference games only, the Hawkeyes are led in scoring by Tony Freeman, who is fifth in the league with a 15.1 average. Justin Johnson and Freeman are 1-2 in three-point field goals made per game (3.1 for Johnson, 2.9 for Freeman). Cyrus Tate is third in rebounding (7.3 per game) and Seth Gorney is third in defensive rebounds (5.2 per game).
Lickliter said that the swing offense run by Wisconsin would remind Iowa fans of the type of offense favored by coaches Tom Davis and Bruce Pearl. Although Iowa and Wisconsin are becoming known as methodical offensive teams, tempo isn't discussed in the Hawkeye camp.
"What we want to do is be poised enough to work the shot clock down if need be," Lickliter said. "If not, we'll shoot it quick. I think Wisconsin would be the same way. I've seen them score in transition. I think, though, that they want to be comfortable with the shot that they're shooting."
Lickliter also fielded questions directed at two of his senior players and one of his former players who is now an assistant coach.
On Gorney's sense of urgency as a senior: "When you get to be a senior, you're going to want help from underclassmen," Lickliter said. "So it's only right that you give the help as underclassmen. I think Seth can be very effective and I think he's finding a comfort-level also. He is effective when he plays to his strengths."
On Johnson playing well during a scoring "slump": "I think so much of it is because you hear it's a slump because we look at the final results all the time," Lickliter said. "You can't only look at a player's contribution by the number of points they score. I want them to be comfortable with whatever the contribution may be. I want them to only shoot good shots. If someone guards them so tight that they can't get a good look, we have to know that opens up something for somebody else and you've done your job. Your contribution is in that you stay poised and confident and you are appreciated for helping your team win. He is a team guy."
On assistant coach Joel Cornette being vocal during practices and games: "I don't know if he is screaming (at the players) or showing his passion," Lickliter said. "All he's ever cared about was wins. He has a huge team ego. He can instruct, he understands the game, he's highly intelligent, he's passionate about the game and he cares about people. So sometimes it comes across emotionally and I think that's a wonderful thing."
Lickliter went on to answer a question about his approach to recruiting.
"Part of it is the need," Lickliter said. "I like versatile players and I like to watch a guy and see if he's involved with his team. I like to see guys understand that they're playing to win and you play as a team. I love it when I watch a guy and you can just tell that his teammates like playing with him."
He went on to say he is fortunate to have Matt Gatens joining the team next season.
"He's exactly the kind of player that I would recruit," Lickliter said. "We had seen him but we really didn't think we were going to be able to sweep into Iowa City and get him to come to Butler. We would have liked to, but we didn't think so.
"(My son) just loves playing with Matt. He knows that Matt's a team guy."
Iowa is 9-5 at home this season, 3-2 at home in league games. The crowds have been filling the 15,500 seats inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"I think our fans appreciate the fact that if it takes us 30 seconds to get the shot we want, so be it," Lickliter said. "If we can score immediately, we'll do that to. Our fans have been just terrific and on Saturday they were absolutely great. It was really a pleasure being in Carver."
The Hawkeyes travel to Minnesota on Saturday, Feb. 9, to play the Golden Gophers at Williams Arena. Game time is 1:05 p.m.
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