Hawkeyes set to battle Hoosiers


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The final score may not have been the best indicator, but given the circumstances, the numbers didn’t have to be.

Few outside the Iowa men’s basketball program could have envisioned the Hawkeyes hanging with No. 6 Michigan State at the Breslin Center up until the final horn.

But Todd Lickliter and Company nearly pulled off the upset Wednesday night, and the Hawkeyes (7-12, 1-5) found some elements they hope to carry into Assembly Hall to face the Hoosiers (9-9, 3-3) on Jan. 24 at 5 p.m. in Bloomington, Ind.

The game was originally scheduled to start an hour earlier, but it was pushed back to accommodate those in Indiana who wanted to watch the AFC championship game between the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets.

Last season, Iowa and Indiana split, each team winning on its home floor. The Hoosiers’ victory was their lone conference victory a year ago during the team’s first season under head coach Tom Crean.
Indiana features three players averaging double figures — sophomore Verdell Jones III and the freshman duo of Christian Watford and Maurice Creek.

One player beginning to emerge for the Hawkeyes is sophomore Aaron Fuller, who fell one rebound shy of a third straight double-double during Iowa’s loss to Michigan State — 13 points and nine boards.

Fuller was pleased with the effort his team displayed in the second half against the Spartans, but he knows more needs to happen against Indiana.

“We were down 12 at halftime, and I thought we responded pretty well,” he said in a postgame radio interview. “Unfortunately, when it came down to it, we didn’t get enough stops, and they won.”

If the Hawkeyes are going to win their first Big Ten road game in more than two years, one key Lickliter said he needs after the Michigan State game is consistency. Iowa got out to an early lead against the Spartans before turning it over on five-straight possessions in the first half. The Hawks were down by as many as 19 points before rallying in the second half.

“Too often, we get anxious and try to make a big play, and then it goes back-to-back,” Lickliter said during a postgame radio interview. “A lot of times, as you can concentrate on the right things, just the task at hand, you’ll be free to play.”

While Indiana isn’t quite the program it once was under the tutelage of Bob Knight, the atmosphere Assembly Hall provides is something Lickliter wants to make certain his young team is aware of. The Hoosiers have won home games this season against both Michigan on Dec. 31, 2009 and Minnesota on Jan. 17 in a game that went to overtime.

“They’ve been playing well,” Lickliter said. “Tom has got them playing well, and it’s a tough environment, as all these are. If you’re wanting to learn how to play the game as a youngster, you can jump right in the Big Ten, and you can learn under a lot of pressure.”

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