Men's basketball set for season's first true away game


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Toto, you're not in Iowa City anymore.

The Iowa men's basketball team (3-3) will play its first true road game of the season tonight, squaring off against Wake Forest (3-3) in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the matchup will be broadcast on ESPNU.

The game is part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge, an event in which Iowa has historically struggled. The Hawkeyes are 2-7 all-time in the Challenge, including a 56-47 loss to Wake Forest in 2007. The Demon Deacons have fared better, with an all-time record of 8-2.

Similar to the Hawkeyes, Wake Forest is a young team with a first-year head coach. The squad is facing a rebuilding year after advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, and it is generally predicted to finish near the bottom of the ACC. After losing star forward Al-Farouq Aminu to the NBA, coach Jeff Bzdelik's roster contains only five returning lettermen.

Still, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said his players aren't underestimating a team with Wake Forest's reputation — especially when the game will be played in front of the Hawkeyes' first hostile crowd of the year.

"We point that out to [our young players], and say, 'Hey, we've either been at home or in a neutral situation — this is going to be a lot different,' " McCaffery said. "I know what those fans are like, and it's very similar to what we see in the Big Ten. Playing on the road is dramatically different. We're going to get a great energy level, and we have to be able to make sure we make fewer mistakes than we've been making."

The task won't be any easier without starting point guard Cully Payne, who will have surgery today to repair a sports hernia and will be sidelined four to eight weeks.

Junior Bryce Cartwright has taken over Payne's job, and he played well in his first start, posting 11 points and four assists to help Iowa maul Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, 111-50, on Nov. 26. The transfer from Paris Junior College is the team's third-leading scorer despite coming off the bench in five of the six games, and he said he's ready to accept the leadership role in his first year as a Hawkeye.

"[When] you play basketball for a long time, [being new] doesn't take away the fact that you know a lot [about] the game or that you've had experiences somewhere," Cartwright said on Oct. 22. "Not just me. Everybody who's played basketball can bring everything to the table."

The game will be a homecoming of sorts for McCaffery, who earned the nickname "White Magic" while playing point guard for the Demon Deacons in 1977. He later coached 25 miles west of Winston-Salem at UNC-Greensboro.

While he acknowledged he has "great respect for the ACC" stemming from his connection with the area, McCaffery said he won't be caught up in nostalgia when he walks onto the campus.

"There's interest for me in the sense that I'll have a lot of friends at the game and so forth, but what we try to do is separate all that stuff," he said. "I'm just trying to get my team ready to play a very good Wake Forest team on the road [and] put together a game plan that's sound, [and] that makes sense to the players, that they can carry out."

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