Nov. 21, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Four games in, UI head coach Fran McCaffery has guarded optimism for what the University of Iowa men's basketball team has accomplished this season.
"I am very happy, but am somewhat guarded in terms of who we played," McCaffery said Thursday in a news conference in the Media Room inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "Maybe you look and say I am underestimating what we've accomplished, but I just think we have to prove more."
The Hawkeyes begin a difficult stretch of five games in 12 days beginning with a Friday night matchup against Penn. The Quakers, who were picked to finish as the runner-up in the Ivy League, bring a 1-2 record into Iowa City, beating Monmouth (79-73) and falling to Temple (78-73) and Penn State (83-71).
"They have shown a tremendous amount of resiliency in the first three games," said McCaffery. "They were down 15 against Temple in the second half, came back and took the lead. They were down 10 on the road at Monmouth, came back and won, and were down 26 in the second half against Penn State and came back.
"They've shown that they can score and have the composure to come back."
"Penn is the next opponent, and they're going to play hard. I am one of those guys that doesn't want to have any mishaps early in the season. Each game is as important as the next. I am not looking forward to any of those games, and I don't think the team is either.
UI senior guard Roy Devyn Marble
Four Penn players are averaging in double digits, led by Tony Hicks' 18.3 points per game. Darien Nelson-Henry averages 18 points and 8.7 rebounds.
"They present a lot of challenges, not the least of which is they have size," said McCaffery. "(Fran) Dougherty (6-foot-8) and Nelson-Henry (6-11) both have game, and they can score in a variety of ways. Then they've got tremendous quickness on the perimeter across the board with Hicks and (Miles) Cartwright.
"They have a lot of depth with upperclassmen to come in off the bench. They all bring something different to the table, so when you start with four good players and add in quality, experienced players, you've got a really good team."
One of the Quaker reserves is senior guard Dau Jok, the brother of Iowa freshman Peter Jok. The brother tandem hasn't played on the same court since Peter was a freshman and Dau a senior at Roosevelt (Iowa) High School during the 2009-10 season.
"I never thought I'd play against him," said Jok. "It's a great opportunity at the end of the day, and I am going to take advantage of it. I am going to try and treat it as another game. It won't matter if he is guarding me or someone else is, I am just going to try to play my game."
Outside of an 83-75 victory over Nebraska Omaha, the Hawkeyes haven't been challenged. Iowa defeated UNC Wilmington, Maryland Eastern Shore and Abilene Christian by an average of 50.3 points.
Senior Roy Devyn Marble says Iowa has accomplished as much as possible in the first four games, but the team must continue improving.
"We've done all we can," said Marble, who is averaging 15 points per game. "We've played four games and won four games. We still have a long ways to go getting ready for the Big Ten season and the coming opponents next week."
Following Friday's game, the Hawkeyes head to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, where it has an opening round matchup against Xavier with potential games looming against Tennessee or UTEP and a final contest from the likes of Villanova, USC, No. 2/3 Kansas or Wake Forest. Marble is focusing on the task at hand.
"Penn is the next opponent, and they're going to play hard," he said. "I am one of those guys that doesn't want to have any mishaps early in the season. Each game is as important as the next. I am not looking forward to any of those games, and I don't think the team is either."
Friday's game is slated to begin at 6 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and it will be televised live on BTN with Steve Physioc and Jim Jackson calling the action.
An estimated 1,000 tickets are still available for purchase at hawkeyesports.com or by calling 1-800-IA-HAWKS. The first 1,500 fans will receive a Melsahn Basabe Bobblehead, and it is "Dollar Dog Night."