Men's hoops to host Cyclones


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Iowa and Iowa State have a bit of history together, but Hawkeye head coach Fran McCaffery doesn't care.

As far as McCaffery is concerned, tonight's matchup between the Hawkeyes (5-4) and Cyclones (7-2) isn't any more significant than the other games his team has played.

"It's just the next game on the schedule," McCaffery said. "My approach as a coach has always been to put a game plan together and get the players to play the next game — and not make it more important than the previous game or the game after that."

Still, there's no denying that players and fans — who are encouraged to "black out" Carver-Hawkeye Arena — will be amped up for tonight's chapter in the 2010-11 Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series.

The Hawkeyes enter the game riding their first winning streak of the year after defeating Northern Iowa on Tuesday. Senior forward Jarryd Cole had a monster 10-point, 15-rebound double-double against the Panthers, and he attributed his performance to the in-state matchup before promising the team would try to be even better tonight, against arguably its biggest rival.

"We have that two-win winning streak right now, and all we can do is go up from here," Cole said after Tuesday's victory. "We're going to try to play our best basketball [against Iowa State] … and keep it going from there."

Iowa will have to deliver on that promise if it wants to slow down one of the better shooting teams in the country. As of Dec. 5, the Cyclones were No. 16 in the nation in 3-point percentage (42.2 percent) and No. 17 in 3-point field goals per game (9.1).

No Iowa State player has been better from 3-point range than junior Scott Christopherson, whose 58.7 percentage from beyond the arc is the fourth-best mark in the nation, and McCaffery acknowledged the La Crosse, Wis., native will pose a challenge for a Hawkeye team that has at times struggled against the 3.

The coach put more emphasis on his own offensive players, though. He highlighted the frontcourt duo of Cole and freshman Melsahn Basabe, who added 14 points and seven boards against UNI to go along with Cole's career night. McCaffery said the performances will build self-confidence for the pair, and their confidence will have a trickle-down effect.

"I think it was important for both [Cole and Basabe], because they had both been up-and-down," the first-year head coach said. "When [Cole is] playing like that, it makes Mel's job a lot easier. When they're both feeding off each other, then it makes our perimeter players' jobs easier."

Iowa's frontcourt play has caught the attention of Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg, who told the school's athletics website he's been impressed with the physicality of Cole and Basabe.

"They were very physical and did a really good job [against UNI]," Hoiberg said in a video posted on cyclones.com. "We're going to have to be tough. We're going to have to play physical. We're going to have to go in and battle those guys in order for us to stay in the game."

The game will be the first meeting between the two first-year head coaches — Hoiberg, an Iowa State alumnus, agreed to coach his alma mater in April — and McCaffery said he has great respect for his Iowa State counterpart. He also conceded the energy in Carver-Hawkeye Arena will be greater than normal but continued to insist it's just another game in a long season.

"I'm not foolish: The players know the difference and the fans are much more excited," McCaffery said. "It's important for us to just make sure we keep everybody level-headed and focused on the game plan."

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