Feb. 9, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- As far as the University of Iowa men's basketball program is concerned, Saturday night's alright for crowding.
UI head coach Todd Lickliter opened Monday's media conference raving about the oomph that the Hawkeye fans provided during a 56-51 win against Northwestern on Feb 7 -- Iowa's first Saturday contest in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in more than a month. The last time the Hawkeyes played a weekend home game was a 65-60 win against Indiana on Jan. 3.
"When I woke up on Saturday, I was thinking about my routine for the day and I was kind of having trouble getting my bearings," Lickliter said. "It occurred to me that I haven't had a Saturday home game for so long, I forgot what my routine was. It was great to be home, it was a terrific crowd and I thought the players did things together that winning requires."
The Hawkeyes are 3-0 this season during home games on Saturday's and 2-0 in home games on Friday's. During a five-point victory over Northwestern, 12,555 vocal -- predominantly pro-Hawkeye -- supporters turned out.
"I think we've had larger crowds, but I just thought the crowd was really involved and it didn't go unnoticed," Lickliter said. "Our players appreciated it and I think it gives you energy and also is just a great motivator. It was really nice."
Following Saturday's victory the Hawkeye players mingled with the UI student section, thanking them for the boost.
"It was a show of appreciation," Lickliter said. "Our players realized the support that they had received and wanted to say thank you. It wasn't just the players. We wanted to tell every Hawkeye fan thank you."
Prior to the Feb. 7 game, Iowa had spent four consecutive weekends on the road -- losing at Illinois (62-54 on Feb. 1), at Penn State (63-59 on Jan. 24), at Purdue (75-53 on Jan. 18) and at Michigan (64-49 on Jan. 11). It is a stretch that Lickliter has already referenced to the Big Ten Conference schedule-makers.
"They've been questioned about how that happens," he said. "I haven't looked at the other team's schedules, so maybe there's somebody else that also went through that. I think to let your building sit empty for four straight weekends seems like a lot to ask of a team and a fan base -- although maybe they were kind of hungry to see us playing on a weekend and they showed up. I think it's worth mentioning to see how the schedule is formulated."
"I think we've had larger crowds, but I just thought the crowd was really involved and it didn't go unnoticed. Our players appreciated it and I think it gives you energy and also is just a great motivator. It was really nice."
UI head coach
Iowa enjoyed its weekend win, snapping a four-game losing skid. Now the Hawkeyes return to the road to play Wisconsin (14-9 overall, 5-6 Big Ten) on Wednesday, Feb. 11, with a 7:35 p.m. tipoff from the Kohl Center. The game will be broadcast by the Big Ten Network. Iowa defeated the Badgers 73-69 in overtime on Jan. 21 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"There is no rest in this league whatsoever," Lickliter said. "Wisconsin was playing good basketball before (during a six-game losing streak Jan. 11-31). Two of those six were overtime and two others were single-possession. Now they've been able to take advantage of a couple more possessions and they've gotten wins. I don't know if there's been a direct change. I know (Wisconsin head coach) Bo (Ryan) has changed the rotation some, but I don't know if he would credit the victories to that or not. I think they've played good basketball. You're judged on your record. You're judged on the final score, but if you look at the total play, you can see that teams play well sometimes when they don't win."
Five Badgers average 8.2 points per game or better, led by Marcus Landry (12.9). Trevon Hughes averages 11.5 points and 1.65 three-point field goals per game and Marion-native Jason Bohannon is averaging 10.9 points and a team-high two three-point field goals per game. In its last two outings, Wisconsin defeated Penn State (54-44 on Feb. 8) and Illinois (63-50 on Feb. 5). The win against the Illini snapped a two-game home losing streak for the Badgers, who are 9-3 inside the Kohl Center.
Iowa is currently 13-11, 3-8 and sitting 10th in the conference. Wisconsin is tied for eighth with Michigan. Lickliter chuckled when a question was asked, insinuating that the final seven Hawkeye regular-season games are not meaningful.
"I've never played a non-meaningful one," Lickliter said. "We want to be a good team and we want to play good basketball. We want to compete at a high level. We want to win the next game and prepare for that. There's such great respect for this league -- I have tremendous respect for their programs, for the way they play, for the degree of difficulty it's going to be. It's going to be a terrific challenge and we have got to love challenges. I've played a lot of pick-up basketball and that was meaningful, too. It's a lot of fun to compete."
The Hawkeyes have regained the services of 6-foot-8 forward Cyrus Tate, who missed seven straight games with an ankle sprain. Tate started against Northwestern and played 13 minutes, scoring two points and grabbing five defensive rebounds.
"He said it responded," Lickliter said. "(Athletic trainer) John Streif was encouraged. We can increase a few more minutes if he does his job. It's great just having him in the mix. He was good -- he was vocal and encouraging when he wasn't playing, but I think having him available gives our guys a lift."
Iowa is 11-2 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this season and the Hawkeyes return home for a Valentine's Day encounter against Purdue beginning at 3:05 p.m.