Hawks look for two in a row as Spartans loom


Twice this year, Iowa has won big games at home — Jan. 21 against Wisconsin and Feb. 7 against Northwestern — only to falter on the road a few days later.

After the Wisconsin game, the Hawkeyes suffered a heartbreaker at the hands of Penn State, and following the victory over Northwestern, head coach Todd Lickliter’s squad got blown out in the Kohl Center by the Badgers.

Now, three days after Iowa defeated Michigan 70-60 at home, the Hawkeyes (14-13, 4-10) will face Big Ten leader and No. 9 Michigan State (21-5, 11-3) in East Lansing at 7:35 p.m. today.

When asked about the importance of stringing together two-consecutive victories, Lickliter said if his team was able to play similar to the way it played against Michigan on Sunday, then it would be fine.

“We don’t really talk in bunches,” he said. “We try to concentrate on the task at hand. … What we’ve got to do is whatever it was that we did against Michigan, we’ve to try to duplicate it and tailor it to Michigan State.

“It’s demanding. There’s no question. But I guess that’s what makes it that much more enjoyable if you’re able to compete with these teams.”

That task may have gotten a little bit easier with Lickliter’s news that senior Cyrus Tate, who has missed nine games with an ankle injury and played sparingly against the Wolverines, will probably play about seven minutes per half against the Spartans and will be available “from here on out.”

Lickliter also said sophomore Jeff Peterson (hamstring) and junior Jermain Davis (knee) were both day-to-day with their aliments.

“We’ve got more guys on the mend than we have healthy,” he joked in his teleconference on Tuesday. “We haven’t dwelled on it, our players have not used any excuses, but I don’t know if there’s a team that’s … had to make any more adjustments than we have.”

The adjustments won’t stop just because Tate is finding his way on the floor again.

Against Michigan, Lickliter played only seven players, and four of his starters went all 45 minutes in the overtime contest. But the head coach contended he’s not worried about his team’s energy, despite only have two days off to recover.

“I’m really not concerned,” he said. “Part of what we do is try to be efficient as far as our non-competition days. I really believe they’ll recover and be fine. … Now, with that said, Michigan State is one of the fastest teams I’ve witnessed, and they’re one of the most physical. It’s going to take a lot of energy.”

On the other hand, after the Hawkeyes’ Feb. 22 game against the Wolverines, sophomore Jake Kelly, who was named Big Ten Player of the Week for his 23-point performance against Michigan, said he was concerned about his energy level for the upcoming contest, especially since he’ll be playing point guard tonight against the Spartans.

“I’m going to have to get a lot of rest in because they’re going to be pressuring me and trying to make me tired,” he said after the Michigan contest. “But I’m just going to try to control the game as best I can.”

While the speed the Spartans like to play with hasn’t changed since their 71-56 thumping of the Hawkeyes on Jan. 29, Michigan State forward Raymar Morgan, who played only eight minutes in the teams’ previous meeting, has been seeing more floor time since missing three games with an illness.

“They’ve added a few sets, and Morgan’s coming back and playing some for them,” Lickliter said.

“With [head coach] Tom [Izzo], … his teams they continue to grow because they emphasize [the things] that are important to them. … They’re going to keep getting better because the way they approach the game.

“Michigan State demands every bit of your attention. There’s just no way around it.”

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