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Men’s hoops to face Hoosiers

BY SETH ROBERTS | FEBRUARY 04, 2011 7:10 AM

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Yogi Berra once said sports are 90 percent mental.

If that’s true, Saturday’s matchup between Iowa (9-13, 2-8) and Indiana (12-11, 3-7) will be a doozy.

Both the Hawkeyes and Hoosiers are coming off the best victories of their respective seasons, and both teams will likely enter their brawl in Bloomington, Ind., with more confidence than they’ve had in recent memory.

The two teams scored major upsets on Wednesday; Iowa beat the tar out of reeling Michigan State, and Indiana upended No. 18 Minnesota for its second win in three games. The Hoosiers beat then-No. 20 Illinois on Jan. 27 and only lost to the Spartans by one point in overtime when visiting East Lansing on Sunday.

In other words, the Hoosiers aren’t the same team they were when Iowa beat them by 14 points on Jan. 23 — and the Hawkeyes know it.

“They’re a different team right now — a different face, a different look,” Iowa center Jarryd Cole said on Wednesday. “[They’re] playing as well as anybody.”

Indiana’s turnaround has been particularly surprising considering its recent history. Once a squad with as proud a tradition as any team in the country, the Hoosiers have disintegrated over the past few years. A well-documented recruiting scandal didn’t help matters, and coach Tom Crean has managed only 28 wins in his first three years at the helm.

Something changed after the Hawkeyes pounded the Hoosiers in Carver-Hawkeye arena last month, though. Indiana has looked strong against some of the top-ranked teams in the conference and it has caught the eye of Iowa shooting guard Matt Gatens.

“We just beat [the Hoosiers] recently, but they’re playing some of the best basketball in the conference right now,” he said on Wednesday. “We have to take that seriously.”

Of course, the Hawkeyes have played some good basketball recently as well. Iowa had lost two-straight games before the 20-point win over Michigan State — the team’s first triumph over Sparty since the 2007-08 season — but looked superb in all aspects of the game Wednesday. Iowa outrebounded, outdefended, and outhustled a team that went to the Final Four last year, factors head coach Fran McCaffery attributed to getting back to basics in practice.

“What we did on Monday was break down every aspect of our defense like it was the first day of practice,” he said on Wednesday. “You know, how we position our feet; how we help and recover; how we defend the post; how we contain penetration; how we rotate out of it. All of those things.”

All of those things added up to a commanding victory, and the team will need to do a lot of the same on Saturday.

At the same time, though, Iowa can’t afford to hang its hat on the Michigan State game and expect to coast the rest of the way. Cole said his teammates should take a few lessons from the game, but treat the rest of the experience as if it never happened.

“We have to forget this game — remember it, but forget it at the same time,” Cole said. “Remember how you did it, but forget it. It’s in the past. We have to look forward and get on the road.”


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