Hawkeyes prepare for regular-season finale


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What has been an arduous season for the Iowa men’s basketball team will conclude on March 7 when the Hawkeyes visit Williams Arena for a battle with Minnesota.

The outcome, however, will be of minor significance for Iowa (10-20, 4-13). The Hawkeyes have clinched the No. 9 seed for next week’s Big Ten Tournament thanks to Michigan State’s 67-65 win over Penn State on Thursday.

However, the Golden Gophers can secure the No. 6 seed with a win, but a loss to the Hawkeyes could potentially drop Minnesota to the No. 8 spot, thus setting up a rematch with Iowa at Conseco Field House on March 11.

Both teams are coming off road games they’d like to forget. Iowa lost its school-record 20th game on Wednesday after No. 15 Wisconsin disposed of the Hawkeyes, 67-40, in Madison.

Like many of Iowa’s losses in conference play this season, the Badgers managed to send the Hawkeyes into a tailspin, going on a 23-2 run during the first half after Iowa got out to an 8-7 lead.

The Hawkeyes’ shooting woes continued, as well. Iowa only connected on 16 shots while attempting 43 field goals.

“They put us in bad spots, and then we’d come down and instead of making them play defense, we’d grab it, and shoot it quick, or shoot a shot we couldn’t make, hoping that we’d make it,” Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter said during a postgame radio interview on Wednesday night.

Minnesota’s NCAA Tournament résumé took a massive hit on Tuesday when the Gophers lost, 83-55, at Michigan. The defeat put Minnesota alone in the No. 6 spot with a 8-9 record in the Big Ten play (17-12 overall).

The Gophers won their first meeting with Iowa, 86-74, on Jan. 2 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena — a game in which Minnesota dominated much more than the final score indicates. At one point, the Gophers led, 80-54.

The embarrassment from that earlier loss is something that has stuck in the minds of the Iowa players, too.

“The first time we played them was horrendous,” sophomore Aaron Fuller said during a postgame radio interview on Wednesday after finishing with 14 points against Wisconsin. “We couldn’t even get the ball past half-court. We really need to work on our press break and trying to take care of the ball.”

With the game Iowa’s regular-season finale before heading to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament, the Hawkeyes want to end their gruesome campaign on a positive note — especially against a team that previously forced Iowa into committing 24 turnovers.

“I hope that we’re better than that now and that we can handle some of the defensive scrambling that they do and find good shots,” Lickliter said.

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