Who's Next - Getting Inside the Iowa Hawkeyes

The first third of the Big Ten schedule is in the books for the Hawkeyes, and though their 1-5 record in conference play isn't anything to be proud of, their recent play should give them reason to be confident in their chances of being competitive the rest of the way...

The first third of the Big Ten schedule is in the books for the Hawkeyes, and though their 1-5 record in conference play isn't anything to be proud of, their recent play should give them reason to be confident in their chances of being competitive the rest of the way.

The Hawkeyes stood up to powerful Michigan State in a narrow 70-63 defeat on Jan. 20, battling back from a 19-point second-half deficit and showing significant improvement after falling by 18 to the Spartans just 11 days earlier at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. This comes on the heels of Iowa scoring its first Big Ten win, a 67-64 triumph vs. Penn State on Jan. 16.

Iowa will try to keep the momentum going when it travels to Indiana on Jan. 24. The Hoosiers were 2-3 in conference play entering a Jan. 21 matchup at Penn State. Indiana, which has defeated Michigan and Minnesota, has gotten solid play from sophomore guard Verdell Jones III since Big Ten play began. Jones has scored more than 20 points in three of five league games, and he poured in 24 points in the Hoosiers' OT win vs. Minnesota on Jan. 17.

Balanced scoring was a key to the Hawkeyes' strong showing at Michigan State. Four players scored in double figures, and all five scorers scored at least eight points. For a team that lacks much punch on offense, giving opponents multiple scorers to worry about is key.

The game at Indiana is the first of three games in six days for Todd Lickliter's club, and matchups vs. Ohio State (Jan. 27) and at Michigan (Jan. 30) follow. The Hawkeyes have proven they can play with the conference's best, but they will need to be on top of their game as they begin this challenging stretch.

MICHIGAN STATE 70, IOWA 63: The Hawkeyes (7-12, 1-5) trailed by as many as 19 points in the second half at No. 6 Michigan State and were staring down a 62-47 deficit with seven minutes left. But Iowa kept battling, and it gave Michigan State (16-3, 6-0) quite a scare in the final minutes -- the Hawkeyes twice drew within three points, the last time on a pair of free throws from junior center Jarryd Cole with 16 seconds left. However, the Spartans hit their free throws down the stretch, and the Hawkeyes couldn't quite get over the hump against the Big Ten's lone unbeaten team in conference play. Iowa sophomore guard Matt Gatens paced led all scorers with 17 points. Michigan State senior forward Raymar Morgan led the Spartans with 16 points.

--Sophomore forward Aaron Fuller scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds at Michigan State. He has scored in double figures in three straight games, and his nine-board effort vs. the Spartans comes after back-to-back 10-rebound games vs. Tennessee State and Penn State.

--G Matt Gatens hasn't been sharp behind the three-point arc in conference play, and he only hit 1-of-5 attempts at Michigan State. However, his lone three-pointer vs. the Spartans cut Michigan State's lead to 64-61 with 2:01 left, and it was a deep three from the right wing. He has scored in double figures in four straight games.

--C Jarryd Cole scored 10 points and brought down seven rebounds in 25 minutes. It's the first time he's scored in double digits in Big Ten play.

ON THE SPOT: The Hawkeyes went a little more than five minutes without scoring in the first half in Michigan State and went from holding a five-point lead to trailing by 10. Even a lone basket can quell a game-changing run like this, so needless to say, the Hawkeyes will need to find away to avoid prolonged cold snaps, particularly on the road.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm going to say something here and you're going to think I'm crazy. I thought Eric did a good job on (Battle). He's just so hard to handle." -- Coach Todd Lickliter on how Eric May played defensively on Penn State guard Talor Battle even though Battle scored 31 points in the Iowa win.


SEASON RECAP: After freshman point guard Cully Payne missed three crucial free throws late in the Penn State game, he got a pep talk from assistant coach Joel Cornette. If you want to call it a pep talk, that is. Payne said in the Des Moines Register, "Coach Cornette came up to me after I missed and gave me a few words of encouragement. He said, 'Keep the ball in your hands and knock them down.' I wouldn't say it was in that tone."

Payne was fouled again with 19.7 seconds left with Iowa leading 61-60. Whatever it was that Cornette said to him worked. Payne knocked down both shots, and the Hawkeyes closed out their first conference win.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Cully Payne, G Eric May, F Aaron Fuller, G Matt Gatens, C Jarryd Cole. Key Subs -- F Devan Bawinkel, F Andrew Brommer, F Brennan Cougill, G John Lickliter.


Michigan State 71, Iowa 53

Iowa 67, Tennessee State 62

Iowa 67, Penn State 64

Michigan State 70, Iowa 63


at Indiana, Sunday, Jan. 24

vs. Ohio State, Wednesday, Jan. 27

at Michigan, Saturday, Jan. 30

Illinois, Wednesday, Feb. 3

IN FOCUS: The Hawkeyes certainly can't be accused of playing an easy schedule. Iowa has lost to national powers Texas, Purdue and Michigan State. The Hawkeyes have also dropped games to Wichita State, Virginia Tech, Northern Iowa, Minnesota, Texas-San Antonio, Duquesne, Ilinois and Iowa State. Most of those teams have impressive records to date. Playing these teams should toughen up the Hawkeyes as they head into the meat of the conference schedule.


--Hitting the road means the Hawkeyes must get off to a better start than they did against Penn State. Iowa fell behind 24-13 with 6:21 left in the half before finishing strong with an 18-4 run. That stretch continued into the second half as the Hawkeyes built a 12-point lead, which enabled them to hang on for the win.

While putting together that run is an encouraging sign for a team that's learning how to win, it will be much more difficult to do on the road, especially against powerful teams like Michigan State and in hostile environments where overcoming big deficits won't be easy to do.

--Freshman Eric May has given the Hawkeyes strong play of late. Over a six-game span, he averaged 10.5 points, seven rebounds and 2.3 assists while averaging 9.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in four starts.

--Matt Gatens is second in the Big Ten in minutes played, averaging 36.59 minutes per game. He played 37 minutes against Penn State.

--Jarryd Cole is second in the league in shooting percentage at .598. He was 3-of-5 from the field against Penn State.

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