Dec. 18, 2012
Fran McCaffery answered quickly Tuesday when asked where he wants his 9-2 University of Iowa men's basketball team to be after nonconference games against South Carolina State and Coppin State.
"We want to be 11-2," McCaffery said during a 10-minute teleconference. "But I also want to see improvement. I want to see defensive intensity, sustained effort, and execution. I want to see getting better collectively and getting better individually."
Iowa hosts South Carolina State on Wednesday, beginning at 8:06 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Bulldogs are 4-7 after falling Monday at Missouri, 102-51. McCaffery cautions against making judgment about South Carolina State after a 51-point loss.
"(South Carolina State) is not terrible. Missouri made them look terrible," McCaffery said. "If you watch this team play, they're talented. I have seen a number of their games, they played substantially better against Maryland. They played substantially better against Albany is a team I'm familiar with -- they are 9-2. They played really well against Norfolk State. You look at their players individually, they have a 6-foot-11 center, they have bullet-quick guards that can score. They have athletic wings. They ran into a buzz saw last night."
McCaffery said one goal is to use Missouri's blueprint to help lock down a fifth consecutive UI victory.
"We have to play the same way; we have to get after it the same way," McCaffery said. "What was interesting in that game is (Missouri was) up 35 (points) and they are playing like they are down five. That's a mentality we have to emulate. It's a great learning experience because you are going to see a team come in here Wednesday night and you're going to say, `Wow, how did they lose by 50?' Well, they lost by 50 because Missouri won by 50, and they are going to play a lot differently because they have talent. They have shot-makers, they have post players, and they have some depth."
McCaffery was asked about team depth, since nine players: Melsahn Basabe, Anthony Clemmons, Mike Gesell, Roy Devyn Marble, Eric May, Zach McCabe, Josh Oglesby, Aaron White, and Adam Woodbury have all scored in double figures in a game this season. Gabriel Olaseni scored eight points in 11 minutes Dec. 4 against South Dakota.
"It has been interesting. It has been different people," McCaffery said. "The beauty of that is it makes us harder to prepare for. They can't lock in on one guy like they did with (Matt) Gatens last year. We have more weapons and different ways we can go, whether it be motions and sets or defensively. That's what makes practices more interesting and it makes it interesting moving forward to see how everything is going to ultimately develop."
Practice is where another Hawkeye -- sophomore forward Darius Stokes -- has been emerging. But with Iowa playing an 11-man rotation, it is still difficult for the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native to find court time. Stokes has played a combined 17 minutes against UT-Pan-American, Howard, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and South Dakota.
"It also impacts a guy like Darius Stokes, who has really worked himself into a position where he can be a factor," McCaffery said. "We have some guys that are ahead of him right now and that's unfortunate. But he is an integral part of what we're doing."
Two starting freshmen -- point guard Anthony Clemmons and center Adam Woodbury -- look to rebound from their performances during an 80-73 win Saturday against Northern Iowa. Clemmons was held scoreless with two turnovers in 11 minutes; Woodbury scored one point with two turnovers in nine minutes.
"They're both very resilient individuals. They are very competitive and have a lot of pride," McCaffery said. "What they have to realize is it's a hard thing because what I'd like to be able to do is allow a young guy to play though his mistakes. But in a game like that (against Northern Iowa) that was close, I have other options. I have to go with my other options and find the mix that is playing well. They have been very mature and understanding in that aspect, and have worked hard in practice the last couple of days. They're great people in terms of character. I have no doubt they're going to bounce back."
There will be plenty of promotions Wednesday, highlighted by the game being a Family Four-Pack Night. Any group of four can purchase four tickets, four hot dogs, and four sodas for $45 (advance purchase required).
It is also UI Faculty/Staff Appreciation Night with free admission for UI faculty and staff with a valid ID (or pre-ordered), and $5 admission for any of their guests.
Any fan who brings a new toy to donate to the UI Children's Hospital will receive a $5 discount off the game ticket.
And it wouldn't be the holiday season with Santa Claus didn't make a cameo appearance. The jolly old fella will be on the south end of the concourse to take photos with children until 8 p.m. (CT).
Iowa defeated South Carolina State, 82-69, in the only previous meeting Dec. 21, 2009.