March 13, 2014
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Today's Big Ten Tournament opener against Northwestern provides the University of Iowa men's basketball team a fresh start as the Hawkeyes look to regain their mojo.
"It's as simple as getting back to work, having fun with the game and getting back to what we were doing," said junior Aaron White, a third-team All-Big Ten selection in 2014.
The Hawkeyes were cruising in February, running their record to 18-6 with an 85-67 blasting of No. 10/16 Michigan. Iowa followed with an 82-70 road win at Penn State a week later, but the team won once in its final six games, forcing the Hawkeyes to reevaluate heading into the postseason.
"We need to go out and play with confidence," said sophomore Mike Gesell, who has scored in double figures in seven of Iowa's last nine games. "We can't forget that a month ago we were 10th in the country. We didn't get there by accident.
"We need to go out and play with confidence. We can't forget that a month ago we were 10th in the country. We didn't get there by accident."
UI sophomore Mike Gesell
"We worked our way up there and we hit a little rough patch like almost every team in the Big Ten (did at some point in the season). I think we're past that now."
The Hawkeyes aren't tempering expectations, they still believe they have a team that can win four games in four days and bring home a Big Ten Tournament title.
"Maybe the path was a little bumpier than we thought it would be, but we're still pushing forward," said sophomore Adam Woodbury. "We know we have the talent and team to do it, it's all about execution now."
The Hawkeyes will need to buckle down defensively to have a chance to make a Big Ten Tournament run. During the last six games, Iowa has given up 85 or more points three times -- something that happened three times in the first 25 contests.
White says the Hawkeyes take solace in knowing they can be a good defensive team, now it's a matter of doing it.
"If we hadn't done it, it would be big concern for us," said White. "You'd have to recreate something and fool the other team. We proved we can do it, we know we can do it, it's just getting back to it."
You won't find the Hawkeyes looking past Northwestern -- a team Iowa beat by 26 points in both regular season meetings.
"It'd be a lot tougher (to focus solely on Northwestern) if we were playing better," said White. "We're not playing great, so you can't get ahead of yourself. You have to have that mindset, lock into Northwestern. We know what we need to do.
"Just because we've lost 5-of-6 games doesn't mean we're not going into this trying to win the Big Ten Tournament. That's what we were doing two months ago and everyone was on board. Now that we've hit a little skid, people don't think we can do it.
"It's the same team and coaching staff... that's our goal and expectation, it hasn't changed."
Thursday's first round game is scheduled to begin at approximately 8 p.m. (CT) on ESPN with Mike Tirico, Dan Dakich and Allyson Williams on the call. The winner will face No. 3 seed Michigan State on Friday in the same time slot.