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Hawkeyes start homestand with Drake

BY BRENDAN STILES | DECEMBER 18, 2009 7:30 AM

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Todd Lickliter made one thing clear on Thursday after resuming the head-coach duties of the Iowa men’s basketball team: He will ease his way back.

Lickliter had surgery on Dec. 5 for a carotid-artery tear, which kept him from being on the Hawkeyes’ bench the past three games. In his absence, assistant coach Chad Walthall took his place, and Iowa went 1-2, with the lone victory, over Prairie View A&M, occurring on the same day the third-year Iowa head coach had his procedure.

As happy as Lickliter said he was to be back with the team, he said he wouldn’t be too demanding with the team as the Hawkeyes prepare to host Drake at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

“I kind of wanted to do it gradually. I didn’t want to just jump in and try to dominate,” Lickliter said during a press conference on Thursday. “I’ve been gone, so I’ve eased back in, and I’ve been doing it the right way.”

The players enjoy having Lickliter back.

“He knows so much about the game, which is huge for us,” freshman guard Cully Payne said. “Just having his little input here and there, even though he can’t really go ‘all out’ yet, gritting his teeth and getting back at it, it’s just great to have him there.”

The Hawkeyes come into the evening contest, one of three nonconference games remaining on the schedule, with a 3-7 record after back-to-back losses last week at Northern Iowa and Iowa State.

Iowa will play South Carolina State on Dec. 21 and host Tennessee State on Jan. 12 in its other two non-Big Ten showdowns.

The Drake contest is the first of a long stretch of home games for the Hawks — seven of their next eight before classes resume on Jan. 19. The lone road contest during this span will be on Jan. 5, when Iowa plays at Illinois.

Drake comes into this contest with a 5-5 record. While the Hawkeyes own this rivalry overall with a 53-10 record, of late, Drake has ruled. The Bulldogs possess a three-game winning streak over Iowa, beginning in 2006, when former Iowa coach Tom Davis got the best of the Hawkeyes during his final season at the school.

With finals out of the way, the players are looking forward to focusing on becoming a better basketball team.

Junior Jarryd Cole said that while the Hawkeyes’ record is disappointing, he doesn’t believe they’re far off from “clicking on all cylinders.”

“There are going to be better days. There has to be. It’s hard for it to get any worse,” he said. “We just have to keep going, keep pulling together. We have to be more consistent in what we do.”


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