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Men’s hoops looking for rebound

BY SETH ROBERTS | JANUARY 28, 2011 7:10 AM

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After an ugly loss to Penn State on Wednesday, the Iowa men’s basketball team is in desperate need of a confidence-booster.

It won’t come easily this weekend, when the Hawkeyes (8-12, 1-7 Big Ten) travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan (12-9, 2-6 Big Ten) on Jan. 30.

On paper, the Wolverines don’t seem as if they should trouble Iowa. Michigan is close to the cellar of the Big Ten, has won just one game since Jan. 2, and fields one of the youngest teams in the country.

The Wolverine roster has no seniors and just one player older than 20.

There’s more to this team than meets the eye, though.

As of Wednesday, Michigan has lost to ranked opponents four times by an average of 4.75 points. The Wolverines played then-No. 3 Kansas and then-No. 2 Ohio State in consecutive games, forcing the Jayhawks into overtime on Jan. 9 and hanging with the Buckeyes before falling, 68-64, on Jan. 12.

The Maize-and-Blue is more dangerous than it seems, and the struggling Hawkeyes need to play accordingly.

Luckily for the Iowa, the Penn State game provided a blueprint for what needs to be improved.

“We got a little impatient — maybe too unselfish — on offense,” assistant coach Andrew Francis said in a halftime radio interview Wednesday. “We stopped attacking [the Nittany Lions]. We have to get back to that.”

The team wasn’t able to rediscover its offensive fire against Penn State, a result of both the stiff Nittany Lion zone defense and yet another long scoring drought for the Hawkeyes. The team suffered an eight-minute stretch in which it hit just two field goals while missing seven, which has been a recurring theme.

Head coach Fran McCaffery said the problem lies in his team’s tendency to try to do too much during a dry spell.

“We’re quick-shooting the ball on the road when the other team’s on a run, and then we’re forcing the issue,” McCaffery said in a radio interview Wednesday. “We continue to talk about the same things, and we continue to violate the same rules. It’s very, very disappointing.”

McCaffery’s players are also feeling frustrated with the slide through Big Ten play, and senior co-captain Jarryd Cole said the Hawkeyes have to shoulder most of the blame.

“The fellas need to step up and take the role, to be more aggressive and assertive and play more smart than we have been playing,” the center said in a radio interview. “I don’t want to put that on Coach McCaffery. He’s done everything he can in his power — he and all the assistant coaches alike. We have to come together as a team and get this done.”

Iowa has just 10 games left on its schedule, and none of them are easy. Still, the Hawks will have had four days to prepare when they tip off against Michigan, and that’s plenty of time to learn from the mistakes made against Penn State.

While time is running out on the season, Francis took to Twitter on Wednesday to say the team is focused on the big picture.

“Our journey continues,” he Tweeted. “I fear failure, and that is a great motivator to succeed. On to the next one.”


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