Men's hoops welcomes finals week break


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AMES — The Iowa men's basketball team should be happy Royce White no longer resides in the Big Ten.

The Iowa State forward, who transferred from Minnesota, torched the Hawkeyes to the tune of 7-of-7 shooting for 14 first-half points and 17 total last Friday. He helped lead the Cyclones to their third-straight victory over the Hawkeyes, 86-76.

Iowa (5-5) fell behind early and trailed by 21 points at halftime. No single statistical category told the story at Hilton Coliseum. Both teams made 22 free throws and committed 12 turnovers, and Iowa State won the rebounding margin by only 3.

But as has been the case in several of its losses this season, Iowa allowed an opponent too many open looks offensively. The Cyclones took advantage, and shot just under 55 percent from the field.

"We were playing like we were in Fright Night because of the crowd, because of the environment. We weren't really guarding anybody," Iowa forward Melsahn Basabe said. "This isn't high school — guys aren't just going to be missing at this level."

When asked what the Hawks will work on during their eight day lay-off — Iowa will host Drake on Dec. 17 — guard Matt Gatens said a lot of attention will be paid to the defensive end of the court.

"It's something we've been working on for a while, so it's disappointing — it seems like we haven't made too many strides in that area," Gatens said. "There's a number of things. I think our motion offense needs to get better. We'll break down [the Iowa State tape] and probably work on a lot of things over finals week."

Along with fixing the Xs and Os with which the Hawkeyes seem to be struggling, head coach Fran McCaffery said the finals week break from games comes at a good time because a number of his players are "banged up."

"You squeeze all these games in before finals — everywhere I've ever been, every team does the same thing. You got to get them all in [before finals]," he said. "Then you take a week off. They need time to rest. Eric May is banged up, [Devon] Archie is banged up, [Gabe] Olaseni is banged up, [Devyn] Marble is banged up. We got guys banged up. But we're no different than anybody else. If you start playing every other day and you don't take practices off, they need time to rest their bodies."

McCaffery also said point guard Bryce Cartwright didn't look like his normal self in Ames after missing Iowa's game against Northern Iowa on Dec. 6. Cartwright played six early minutes off the bench against Iowa State, but he never came back in after his initial stint.

Even those who appear to be fully healthy, such as Basabe, said the finals week break will allow time to physically prepare for the final three games of the nonconference schedule. The Hawkeyes will open Big Ten play against Purdue on Dec. 28 at home.

"I still need to get my legs under me, still need to improve my conditioning so I can be a more effective defensive player," said Basabe, who scored 18 points and grabbed 9 rebounds against Iowa State. "I know when the film of [of the Iowa State game] comes, there's going to be a lot of me on there."

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

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