Dec. 28, 2009
By Brandon Swedberg
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- With the 36th toughest schedule in the nation and the hardest in the Big Ten, the University of Iowa men's basketball team will be put to the ultimate test by hosting the number four team in the nation, Purdue, on Tuesday with a 6:05 p.m. start inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"They are deserving of being fourth," UI head coach Todd Lickliter said Monday at a media conference inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "They have so many ways to attack. They are very aggressive and are sound defensively. They are not selfish and pass the ball really well. I mean it is just a good mix they have, and they are very deserving of their ranking."
According to coach Lickliter, this game will be a perfect opportunity for Iowa to wipe the slate clean as both Iowa (5-7) and Purdue (11-0) open up Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes enter the game on their first win streak of the season, winning their last two games against Drake (71-67) and South Carolina State (82-69).
"I think this game looks like a wonderful opportunity to me," Lickliter said. "We won't be the favorite a lot, but would the game be very interesting if the favorite always won. It is so much fun to compete, get a challenge, come up with a game plan and your group tries their best to execute it. We want to be a better team and keep on growing."
When asked about if all his players made it back safely from the short holiday break, Lickliter said he was concerned with the weather and advised his players to travel safely and if need be, return a day later.
"I think this game looks like a wonderful opportunity to me. We won't be the favorite a lot, but would the game be very interesting if the favorite always won. It is so much fun to compete, get a challenge, come up with a game plan and your group tries their best to execute it. We want to be a better team and keep on growing."
Thankfully, all the players made it back to Iowa City safely, and as for Jarryd Cole, he appears to be showing no signs of an injury he sustained against South Carolina State.
"He really looks good," Lickliter said. "The injury was low, and I think it was on the top of his foot. The trainers got on it immediately. Cole stayed here and kept treating it. When we started back at practice, he didn't show any favoritism at all."
The short holiday break proved to be a great time to rest and heal for Cole but also for the entire team. The team was able to recover from some lingering injuries from the non-conference portion of the schedule.
"Brennan Cougill looks much better," Lickliter said. "I think he just needed the rest and the back is fine. Health wise he is doing well."
In regards to Aaron Fuller, coach Lickliter believes he is moving well after spraining his ankle. "The second half of the South Carolina State game we saw more of how we thought he would play. It is good to have him back because he has a year and a half plus the international trip of understanding [the system] and he helps you defensively a great deal."
Look for all three players to have large roles when Purdue comes rolling into town on Tuesday. But another player, sophomore Matt Gatens, has really been lifting his game to another level as of late.
Coach Lickliter expects Purdue hone in on Gatens, but coach Lickliter doesn't expect this to be a large problem for the Hawkeyes.
"Matt doesn't go out hunting for shots," Lickliter said. "Most of the time, if you are targeted, then you need to be our best screener. I think Matt will do that and we need to put him into a situation were he can screen. Our attack has become more balanced which will help him too."
With Purdue expecting to play Gatens tough, coach Lickliter emphasized how important it is to drive the ball and to create opportunities down low, which should open some shots up from the perimeter for the Hawkeyes.
"If Jarryd, Brennan, and Aaron can give us some presence on the inside for us, and we could find them down low that should help," Lickliter said. "Andrew Brommer has come back and played well in practice which in encouraging. And if we can drive it a little bit, which are things that will help us as a team. I thought Eric May gave us an option of attacking off of the dribble against South Carolina State, so hopefully we can continue to do that."
The Hawkeyes have been victorious in their last two home games, including scoring a season-high 82 points in an 82-69 win against South Carolina State. Iowa looks to open up Big Ten play with a victory and too increase their winning streak to three against Purdue on Tuesday.