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Lickliter still pleased with team’s effort

BY SCOTT MILLER | FEBRUARY 09, 2010 7:30 AM

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With his team on pace to complete one of the worst three-season stretches in the program’s history, Iowa men’s head basketball coach Todd Lickliter sat in the basement of Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday and maintained he’s happy with his team’s effort.

This came just one day after the Hawkeyes showed some grit, but lost, 68-58, to No. 13 Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio.

“We’re playing the best of the best,” the third-year head coach said. “It’s really demanding for us to be able to go ahead and get a win, but we’re turning. We’re making progress. We’re a much better team.”

Indeed, in the Hawkeyes’ last five games against top-25 opponents, they have played four of them within 11 points. The Jan. 9 game against Michigan State at home — an 18-point loss to the Spartans — was the only time this year Iowa hasn’t been remotely competitive against a ranked foe.

The four other contests — against Ohio State (twice), then-No. 6 Michigan State, and then-No. 4 Purdue — were all closer-than-expected encounters. Iowa got to within three points against the Spartans late in the Jan. 20 game and had the Buckeyes within four with 48 seconds remaining in the teams’ Jan. 27 meeting.



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While the Hawkeyes lost all four contests, it was their competitive nature that impressed Lickliter.

“We’ve been playing tough,” freshman Eric May said. “Through every game, it seems like we never give up. We’re always playing until the end of the game. It’s just a hump we have to get over.”

That hump remains as daunting as ever.

Iowa is in the midst of its second four-game losing streak of the year, and a 16-7 (5-6) Northwestern team will come to town Wednesday night. Three days later, the Hawkeyes will travel to Purdue to face the No. 6 Boilermakers.

By the time Saturday’s contest is over, Iowa will have completed another brutal stretch in which it played four games in 11 days, two against top-15 opponents.

“It’s definitely draining, but we’re not ready to quit yet,” junior cocaptain Jarryd Cole said. “We’re in the games, we’re playing hard, but it’s just not enough right now. We have to push and get o ver that edge, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

Tucker’s status

Anthony Tucker sat out his 13th-straight game on Sunday when Iowa played Ohio State. But the sophomore guard did suit up for the contest, perhaps indicating his return could be imminent.

“There’s a chance as long as he’s dressed,” Lickliter said about Tucker’s status for Wednesday’s game against Northwestern. “We’ll see. We’re just going to keep evaluating.”

Lickliter visits recruit

One of the reasons for optimism surrounding the Iowa program is its incoming recruiting class, which ranks 26th in the nation according to Hoop Scoop. Lickliter visited one of the team’s four signees, Ben Brust, over the weekend.

The head coach said he’d visit the other three recruits — Cody Larson, Devyn Marble, and Zach McCabe — in the next month.

“We keep hearing from our recruits about how hard these guys are playing and the improvement they’re seeing,” Lickliter said. “I’ve been excited about the future since they committed and signed and since we brought this [current] group in.”


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