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Men’s basketball drops historic opener

BY ROBBIE LEHMAN | NOVEMBER 16, 2009 7:22 AM

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After 8,486 fans silently exited Carver-Hawkeye arena following the Iowa men’s basketball team’s season-opening loss to Texas-San Antonio, 62-50, Hawkeye head coach Todd Lickliter opened his postgame press conference with a request.

“Here’s what I’d like to do, if you will allow it,” Lickliter said on Sunday. “I’d like to talk about the positives for a second here because I know it’s going to be a lot of negative storytelling.”

The third-year head coach liked the way his Iowa team defended in the first round of the 2009 O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic, but was obviously disappointed with the loss — the first home-opening defeat since the 1962-63 season.

Iowa struggled on the offensive end of the court, hitting just 17-of-50 field goals (34 percent), 5-of-27 3-pointers (19 percent), and 11-16 free throws (69 percent).

Particularly, San Antonio controlled sharpshooters Anthony Tucker and Matt Gatens.

“I think everyone has off nights here and there,” freshman point guard Cully Payne said. “I’m not worried about it. I know Coach was not real worried about it. I think offensively, we’ll make shots, and we’ll be all right.”

Coming into the contest, much was made of the contrast between Iowa’s youth and San Antonio’s experience. It stood out on the court and ended up biting the Hawkeyes.

Iowa started a freshman, three sophomores, and a junior. San Antonio started a junior and four seniors — which Lickliter noted after the loss.

“It’s a whole different game,” he said. “The speed, the coaching, the schemes of the other teams, the [physicality] — you can talk about it all you want. You can’t simulate it in practice. We had some growing pains tonight.”

The 2009-10 version of the Hawkeyes was led in scoring by two freshmen, though — the only Hawks to wind up in double figures. Payne finished with 12 points, and Eric May was a spark off the bench, leading the team with 13 points and seven rebounds.

Jarryd Cole led Iowa in rebounds with 13.

San Antonio had five players score double figures, led by Morris Smith IV’s 16 points. The team also shot 45 percent from 3-point range.

The Roadrunners lived up to their nickname as their speed and quickness gave Iowa problems on both ends of the court.

San Antonio coach Brooks Thompson said he respected the way Iowa shot from 3-point range and said the Hawkeyes had an “uncharacteristic” shooting night.

He also knows experience is something that can’t be drilled in practice and that the Iowa has the pieces to be successful.

“They’re going to be hard to reckon with as they do gain that experience,” Thompson said.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Hawkeyes. Another experienced team in Duquesne will come to town on Tuesday for the second round of the CBE Classic.

The four host schools, Texas, Pittsburgh, Wichita State, and Iowa, automatically advance to the championship rounds on Nov. 23-24 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The Hawkeyes will face No. 3 Texas.

“It has to be something where we learn and we grow,” Lickliter said. “Offensively, we just struggled, and there’s not a real excuse for it.”


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