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Iowa hosts Prairie View A&M on Saturday

BY SCOTT MILLER | DECEMBER 04, 2009 7:30 AM

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Through the Iowa men’s basketball team’s first five games, the squad’s poor shooting was widely linked to its worst start in 80 years. The Hawkeyes only shot above 34 percent in two of those games, and their well-documented struggles beyond the arc didn’t help their sputtering offense.

But over Iowa’s last two games, Todd Lickliter’s group has, in some senses, found its offensive mojo, shooting 50-of-105 (48 percent). In the Hawkeyes’ 70-64 Tuesday loss to Virginia Tech at home, sophomore Anthony Tucker made six 3-pointers and netted 24 points.

Tucker and Company will host Prairie View A&M (3-3) at 3:05 p.m. Saturday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena to see if they can continue their streaky shooting and get their third win of the season.

“[Tucker is] a pretty good shooter, and you saw what he could do when his shot is on,” freshman Brennan Cougill said after the Virginia Tech game. “That’s something we’re going to be able to expect out of Tuck. When he gets into a rhythm, he’s a pretty tough guy to guard.”

Even with the sophomore’s career-high-tying contributions, Iowa couldn’t keep the Hokies from going on a key 8-0 second-half spurt that gave them seven-point lead with 4:32 remaining.

The same story line was present in each of the Hawkeyes’ last three losses.

Tied at the half against then-No. 3 Texas in Kansas City, Lickliter’s team gave up a 17-0 run, succumbing to the Longhorns’ athleticism and size advantage. Texas went on to win, 85-60, in the Sprint Center.

A night later, Wichita State’s 13-2 first-half run gave the Shockers just enough of a cushion to put Iowa away for good.

“We kind of got — not lazy — but relaxed, which we’ve got to really work on,” freshman point guard Cully Payne said after the loss to Virginia Tech.

Prairie View has experienced scoring problems of its own. Up 46-36 in the second half at Cincinnati on Nov. 16, the Panthers didn’t score another point for eight minutes. By the time Darnell Hugee hit a basket with 7:53 remaining in the game, Prairie View A&M had lost its lead.

Bryon Gimm’s team fell, 69-62, to the Bearcats.

In the last week-and-a-half, the Panthers have lost to No. 19 Texas A&M and Oklahoma State by a combined 47 points. Their three wins came over Schreiner, Florida Gulf Coast, and Champion Baptist College.

But Prairie View won’t get any sympathy from the Hawkeyes, who have only tasted victory twice this year.

“I think we played well enough to win,” Tucker said after the Virginia Tech game. “It’s disheartening when you look up and there’s four seconds left, and you’re down six points. But we’ve got to bounce back; we’ve got to get better in practice.”

An important cog in the Hawkeye offense, forward Aaron Fuller, has only played seven minutes in the last five games as he continues to heal from an ankle injury suffered against Bowling Green. He could see more floor time on Saturday.

Without Fuller, the Hawkeyes have continued to inch closer to becoming a more complete squad, according to those on the team. Payne said, “We were better [against Virginia Tech] than we were against Wichita State, which is a plus.”

Lickliter said, “My thing with this team has been improvement, continue to grow, and accept tough situations. We’re going to have plenty of tough situations. This is a great group of guys. They play the game the right way, and if they keep doing it, then — not by luck — they’re going to make good things happen.”


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