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Hawkeyes focus on matchup with Michigan, future ahead

BY BRENDAN STILES | MARCH 10, 2010 7:30 AM

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The 2009-10 regular season didn’t conclude the way Todd Lickliter envisioned. In fact, the ending probably couldn’t satisfy anyone in the Iowa men’s basketball program.

The Hawkeyes didn’t just lose road games at Wisconsin and Minnesota last week — they got shellacked.

After falling by 27 points to the Badgers, they went up to Williams Arena in Minneapolis on March 7 and left 35-point losers, the most Iowa has lost any game by in 20 years.

But as quickly as Iowa fell behind, the Hawkeyes have appeared to just as rapidly skip ahead.

Lickliter knows that this season, the Hawks have experienced growing pains similar to those in the first two years of his tenure. But Iowa’s 21 losses doesn’t stop him from asking a lot from his squad, especially from younger players such as freshman Eric May, who was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman squad on Monday.

“I liken it to when you’re in a tough course, and you’re struggling. The professor’s probably pretty demanding. Well, I’m pretty demanding on these guys,” Lickliter said. “I got to get them to be ‘A’ students. I’m sure it’s taxing for them, but they have not backed down.”

Iowa will face Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday in Indianapolis, and while Lickliter made it clear at his press conference on Tuesday that the season hasn’t officially concluded, his outlook on the team’s future remains optimistic.

“This is a group that will want to help the new guys make an easier transition,” the third-year head coach said. “They know what they’ve gone through, and I think they’ll be able to help that next group, and then it starts — that’s now the norm. That’s what we’re trying to get to.”

That grind is something players, such as sophomore Aaron Fuller, are using as motivation for when the season ends, knowing another year together should provide what they hope is a better representation of Hawkeye basketball.

“I feel like we’re making strides,” he said. “We’re still young, and I feel like all this time that the freshmen are putting in playing in the Big Ten, it’s only going to make us better in the future. Right now, it is kind of disappointing, but I feel like we got a bright future coming up.”

The third time is the charm

One classic cliché has served as the motto for the Hawkeyes this week.

Not only is Thursday’s battle the third time Iowa will face the Wolverines this season, it’s also the third-straight meeting with Michigan in the conference tourney’s opening round.

The Hawks have yet to beat the Wolverines.

“Hopefully, times have changed, and we’ll get them this year,” junior Jarryd Cole said.

Players haven’t forgotten about last year’s 73-45 drubbing in Indianapolis — a game in which Michigan’s DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris matched Iowa’s point total.

Of all the Big Ten teams, the Wolverines definitely catch Iowa’s attention. Sophomore Matt Gatens said being able to prevail over Michigan would be a tremendous boost to the Hawkeyes’ morale.

“It would show that we can learn from previous games, and at the same time, it’d take a step forward in the right direction,” he said.


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