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Men's hoops to keep foot on gas

BY BEN SCHUFF | NOVEMBER 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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Fran McCaffery doesn't hide that he wants to pressure opponents defensively.

He said so when he was hired. He said it again during the team's media day on Oct. 13. He repeated similar expectations following Iowa's 20-point exhibition win over Northwest Missouri State on Nov. 6.

"We're going to press — I said that when I got here," the second year head coach after the Hawkeyes beat the Bearcats, 79-59.

The press was on display from the get-go in Iowa's season-opening victory on Nov. 11 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. McCaffery's squad slammed a full-court press on Chicago State after Eric May made a 3-pointer on the game's first possession, and it continued to do so for a significant portion of the first half.

The Cougars' second offensive possession never crossed half-court, because Iowa's press caused a traveling violation by Chicago State's Matt Samuels. On the ensuing possession, the Hawkeyes trapped the in-bound pass and forced the Cougars to call a time-out.

"I don't think they were expecting us to come right out of the gate with that — [Devon] Archie on the ball and trapping the first pass," forward Aaron White said. "Coach just wants to send the message that we're going to get after people this year. We're going to press, we're going to force our tempo on the game."

Chicago State — the team ESPNThe Magazine ranked as the worst college basketball team in the country — turned the ball over on each of its first six possessions. A 3-point basket by Matt Gatens, 4 points from Melsahn Basabe, and Archie's emphatic one-handed dunk stretched the Hawkeyes' lead to 12-2 four minutes into the game. By that point, the game was effectively over — Iowa led by double digits for all but a few minutes in the first half en route to a 96-53 cat-skinning of the Cougars.

May said the key to the press was speeding up Chicago State, something that Iowa focused on coming into game.

There were times when the press was less effective, though, leaving an Iowa defender alone against two or three Cougars. This was evident in Chicago State's 16 fast-break points; 6 of Chicago State's first 8 points came on transition.

Both Gatens and May said they were pleased for the most part with Iowa's execution of the press, but the pair both said there were a few areas where the Black and Gold need to tighten up.

"That happened a couple times, and I think when you're out pressing like that, it's just a matter of minimizing those types of mistakes," May said.

"They're going to figure it out sometimes; they're going to break the press and get a little fast break going," Gatens said. "It's key for us to get back and get under the ball when we see them breaking the press. It's all about effort at that point. You got to get back and help your teammate out who's back there."

While the Hawkeyes won't face a conference opponent for around a month and a half, White said the focus will be on preparing and fixing any issues with the press by Dec. 28. That's when Purdue comes to Iowa City for the first time since the Hawkeyes upset the then-No. 6 Boilermakers in the last game of the season last year.

"We did pretty good [against Chicago State,]" White said and paused. "How are we going to do against a Big Ten team? That's what we need to keep preparing for."

Follow DI men's basketball reporter Ben Schuff on Twitter.


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