Howe: Players,Coach Lickliter Lacking in Loss

For the second time in as many meetings, Michigan's DeShawn Sims torched the Hawkeyes. Iowa players lacked the effort to contain the Wolverine junior and the coaches failed to come up with an adjustment in a 60-46 loss on Saturday. It was a day where some disturbing things happened on the floor, not the least of which was the coach's son playing 24 minutes.

Aaron Fuller used the word most Iowa basketball fans felt while watching the Hawkeyes flail around against Michigan Saturday – embarrassed. It resulted from watching the Wolverines do pretty much whatever they wanted.

Iowa had played well in a five-game stretch heading into Ann Arbor. Saturday's performance resembled some head-scratching moments far too common in Todd Lickliter's first three seasons as head of the Hawkeyes.

DeShawn Sims followed up a dissection of Iowa's defense in last March's Big Ten Tournament with a dismantling of the same opponent on Saturday. He scored early and often in tossing up 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds (nine offensive).

That output should not have shocked anyone, not the least of which is Lickliter. He played undersized Jarryd Cole on Sims in March and did it again on Saturday.

Who else should be matched up with Sims? Good question. He's probably going to torch just about everyone on the Iowa roster. But, for the love of Pete, please try something different.

Sims is too big for Cole and Fuller and at least as quick as that Hawkeye duo. Freshman Brennan Cougill is no where near physical enough to defend Michigan's inside force.

Try Andrew Brommer to take a few fouls and get Sims off his game. Toss in a zone defense once in a while to invade his comfort zone.

Instead, the solution was to go small with John Lickliter playing an inexcusable 24 minutes and Cole sitting for all but 13. They don't play the same position, but the coach's son was in there tossing up bricks and passing the ball out of bounds with starting point guard Cully Payne moving to off guard.

"A lot of these things that hurt us today are choices. You just make a choice," Todd Lickliter said during his postgame radio interview. "I bet we didn't take a charge tonight. Well, there were charges to be taken, but we get out of the way.

"Let's be quite honest. We're only good if we do the non-skill things, if we block out. We turn around today and try to out-jump them. We haven't been doing that. I guess I didn't emphasize it enough, so it comes back to me. What a terrible way to learn it. I go back to this all of the time, my father used to say to me, it'd be a lot easier if you'd just listen to me. The experience factor is very unenjoyable."

You're not alone in that opinion, coach. It's the third year in a row that the fan base is hearing it, too.

Coach Lickliter said he could tell during practice on Friday that his team had lost a bit of focus. A day later, it didn't hustle and do the little things the way it had in a tough loss to Top 25 Ohio State Wednesday night.

If you sense it coming, adjust as best you can. When you see Sims dealing early, change something up. After witnessing what happened in Indianapolis in March, you need to have a Plan B. And if you think playing your son more minutes is part of Plan B, please go to Plan C.

John Lickliter launched seven shots (six misses) and did not have one assist. He accounted for the third most field goal attempts on the team Saturday. Again, that was inexcusable, and we haven't even mentioned him being a defensive liability.

Freshman Eric May stayed right with likely conference player of the year, Evan Turner, of Ohio State, until late. Saturday, he did a pretty good job on Manny Harris, who scored 20 but needed 16 shots from the field and turned it over six times.

Fuller battled foul trouble to post 16 points and eight rebounds.

"Right from the get-go, they went right down to (Sims), he set a tone and we just had no answer for it," Fuller said in a postgame radio interview. "This game was not us, and quite honestly, it was embarrassing."

The Hawkeyes appeared to have something going. They hadn't turned the corner or figured things out, but they had a chance to beat Top 25 teams in Ohio State and Michigan State in the five-game stretch before Saturday. They won at Indiana pretty convincingly.

With a program as down in the dumps as Iowa has been the last two-plus seasons, we searched for a glimmer of hope. For me, at least, it was there heading into Michigan. It didn't disappear on Saturday, but more doubt crept back in.

Iowa fell to 8-14 overall and a miserable 2-7 in conference with nine more to play in the regular season. The Hawkeyes looked like an emotionally and physically tired team. They've hit a wall during the first two seasons under Lickliter.

If the losing becomes draining, the effort will drop off. And without maximum effort for 40 minutes a night, wins will be even harder to come by than they have to this point.

These are Lickliter's guys. He needs to keep them together after losing the last two groups.

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