Hawkeye basketball works on close games


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One could sense a shred of bitterness in Bryce Cartwright's voice.

Seven months after the Iowa basketball team completed its 2010-11 season, the senior point guard recalled what proved to be one of the Hawkeyes' biggest demons.

Close-game losses.

Eight of Iowa's 20 defeats last year were by two possessions or fewer.

"Against Wisconsin, Northwestern …" Cartwright said, his voice trailing off. "I think if we could have gotten a couple of those, our season would have been a lot different.

"[This year] when adversity hits us, we need to really show who we are and convert."

Doing so could easily mark the difference between a disappointing season and one that ends in the NCAA Tournament — an aspiration numerous players, including Cartwright, spoke about at the team's media day on Thursday.

Iowa's close-game futility was at its most extreme in mid-February. The Hawkeyes dropped four Big Ten games during a 10-day stretch. Three — against No. 13 Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan — were decided by 3 points each. Iowa held leads over Wisconsin and Michigan with under a minute to play but lost in overtime in both games.

"That means we have played well enough to win," coach Fran McCaffery said. "But there's a reason we didn't win."

Senior guard Matt Gatens cited inconsistency as that reason. Closing out a game requires timely defensive stops and scores and reliable free-throw shooting, he said. The Hawkeyes failed to fulfill those requirements too often.

Fixing the problem is a matter of focus, said junior forward Eric May.

"It's really staying focused on the way we want to play the whole game," May said. "… We'd stop playing fast-paced or stop pressing as we should be. We didn't execute. We change that, and it's going to make a difference in those games."

Basabe's confidence grows after U.S. Team tryout

Melsahn Basabe never faced a true tryout situation until this past summer. He was one of 17 invitees to the 2011 United States U19 Team's training camp in Colorado Springs.

The sophomore forward failed to make the team but came back to Iowa with a renewed sense of confidence.

He competed with some of the nation's top underclassmen, including three Big Ten foes — Michigan State's Keith Appling, Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr., and Illinois' Meyers Leonard.

"It let me know where I'm at nationally," Basabe said. "I only came back from it more confident even though I didn't make the team … I'm ready to match up against anybody in this country."

Basabe averaged 11 points and 6.8 rebounds a game as a true freshman for the Hawkeyes. McCaffery said he believes the Glen Cove, N.Y., native is capable of averaging a double-double this season.

"I think we saw last year, against some of the best players in the country, he performed pretty well," McCaffery said. "The next step for him is to be just a little more consistent."

No redshirts likely for freshmen

All three of McCaffery's scholarship freshmen might play immediately.

He said Iowa's experience at the post positions — forwards Andrew Brommer and Devon Archie return as seniors — means he may be able to redshirt center Gabe Olaseni. But McCaffery wants the Hawkeyes to operate at an even quicker pace than they did last season, which requires more depth.

"I feel like we need all of those bodies and what he's shown me so far is that he's ready to play," McCaffery said of the 6-10 London native, the tallest.

Fans can also expect to see the other two members of McCaffery's first full recruiting class — guard Josh Oglesby and forward Aaron White — in Iowa's rotation right away.

"They were recruited to play," McCaffery said. "They showed that they've belonged. They are going to be in there."

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