Hawkeye men’s basketball team ignores What if?


Before Iowa’s practice Thursday, Anthony Tucker was shooting jumpers and making most of them.
Just slightly more than three months ago, Tucker — the quick-triggered freshman who was declared academically ineligible for the second semester — put up 21 points and nailed seven triples against the Citadel.

It was all a part of a roller-coaster first semester on campus for the Minnetonka, Minn., native who was also arrested, suspended, and sick with mono in his first months on campus.

As Tucker hit jumper after jumper, Jermain Davis and David Palmer walked down the Carver-Hawkeye Arena steps. Maybe the two ignored the swishes in the background or maybe their minds drifted into thought.

How much different would we be with Tucker — not to mention the injured Cyrus Tate and Jeff Peterson — in the lineup?

It’s a question Jake Kelly has thought about, but not one that he has dwelled on.

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After all, the sophomore now has two roles to play with Peterson sidelined: playmaker and point guard. And when Iowa (13-13, 3-10) hosts Michigan (16-10, 6-7) on Feb. 22, Kelly will also defend one of the Big Ten’s most explosive scorers in Manny Harris.

With a bench that only stretches nine healthy scholarship players deep, head coach Todd Lickliter said on Thursday it even crossed his mind to play his son John, who is redshirting for Iowa, against Purdue on Feb. 14.

“When you’ve got a guy who you’re playing 40 minutes and he’s your point guard and he goes down, you start thinking about everything,” he said.

For Lickliter’s squad, things seem to be getting worse before they get better. Peterson, who injured his hamstring against Wisconsin on Feb. 11, is “sore but working hard,” Lickliter said.

And Tate, who hasn’t practiced this week, is still listed as “day-to-day.” On Thursday, the 6-9 senior wouldn’t speculate whether he would be healthy enough to return to the hardwood by the end of the season.

“There’s still hope,” he said.

With his absence, the Hawkeyes have been forced to play a smaller lineup — which has been a problem in conference play. Against Michigan on Feb. 22, however, Iowa will match up nicely with John Beilein’s squad, because the Wolverines don’t field a player taller than 6-8.

But the Wolverines do have Harris — a dynamic 6-5 guard who scores 17.5 points and grabs 7.2 rebounds per contest — and Kelly said it will be imperative to hold Harris under the 18 points he scored against the Hawkeyes in Michigan’s 64-49 victory on Jan. 11.

“I guarded him last game, but it’s going to be a team thing because we’re going to have to switch a lot because of the way they run their sets,” Kelly said.

Having a few extra bodies would certainly help in defending Harris, but Lickliter is trying to not focus on what he can’t control.

Through all the suspensions and the injuries and the rehabs, the second-year head coach’s message has stayed constant. Lickliter contends he can’t worry about what the future might hold with his young team — he has to stay focused on the present. And right now, the present includes six more guaranteed games with a battered team desperately in need of a victory.

“I’m just going to prepare to win every game,” Lickliter said. “It’s interesting because our focus is improve today, use today, get better today, prepare for the next game. But as you get into February now, you start to broaden your vision just a little bit so you can grasp what it means to utilize the time well.

“But we’re going to compete this year. This is important for us.”

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