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Will the real Melsahn Basabe please stand up?

BY BEN SCHUFF | NOVEMBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Melsahn Basabe sat on a small table in the press room beneath the seats of Carver-Hawkeye Arena following Iowa's 77-61 loss to Campbell on Nov. 23.

His answers to questions didn't tell the story. The soft and disappointed tone in which he spoke did.

"There isn't too much I could tell you guys that you don't already know," Basabe said after recording as many fouls (2) as points against the Fighting Camels.

What is known is the Big Ten All-Freshman team selection from a year ago isn't playing anywhere near his potential right now.

What isn't known is why.

The Hawkeyes have seen a different Basabe in their last three games than the first three contests. The sophomore averaged 12.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game to start the season against Chicago State, North Carolina A&T, and Northern Illinois. But Basabe has been nearly invisible since, averaging 2 points and 3.3 rebounds against Creighton, Campbell, and Indiana/Purdue-Fort Wayne.

One likely reason for Basabe's lack of production is the foul trouble in which he has found himself. The 6-7 power forward has been whistled for nine fouls over the past three games while scoring a total of 6 points. Basabe played a season-low 11 minutes against Indiana/Purdue-Fort Wayne on Nov. 26 after picking up two fouls in the first 1:46 of the game.

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said it's "fairly typical" for Basabe to be "quieter" in games in which his star forward is in foul trouble.

"His history has been, if he sits for 16 or 17 minutes, it really takes him a while to get going in the second half," the second-year head coach said.

"Obviously, Melsahn is struggling," McCaffery said after his team's loss to Campbell. "We are trying to get him going … He looks lethargic to me."

McCaffery also said Basabe is working to lose some of the 22 pounds he put on during spring and summer workouts.

In the meantime, Iowa is focusing on ways to get Basabe productive again on the court. Forward Zach McCabe said one of keys to doing so is getting him the ball on areas of the floor where he can be most effective.

"We need to get it to him when he's posting up instead of just jump shots all the time," McCabe said. "Anytime you get the ball into Mel or anyone who is in the post, it's going to force more problems than taking a jump shot."

Getting Basabe easier looks was the same solution guard Roy Devyn Marble offered after Iowa's 82-72 victory over Indiana/Purdue-Fort Wayne on Nov. 26.

Taking better shots could go a long way for the Glen Cove, N.Y., native, who's seen his shooting percentage drop from 50 percent in the first three games to 30 percent in the Hawkeyes' last three.

But when asked if he noticed any differences in his teammate over the past week, Marble said, "No — he's still Melsahn."

"He's still being a good teammate even though he isn't playing well," Marble added. "He'll come around. Just give him time."

Basabe said he's not going to make any excuses.

"All I can tell you is I know the type of player I am, and I expect more from myself," he said. "Coach McCaffery is giving me the opportunity to start at a Big Ten school at the University of Iowa. So it's up to me what I want to do with that opportunity. Very few people have the opportunity I have, so I think I need to first check myself and be grateful for what I have."

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


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