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Hawkeyes hope to knock down Frazier, Nittany Lions

BY BEN SCHUFF | FEBRUARY 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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Defense tells the story of Iowa's last five games.

The Hawkeyes played well defensively in two of those games and earned victories over Minnesota and Penn State.

As for the remaining three? Prolonged stretches of poor defense handed Iowa three losses.

The most recent struggle was the team's 83-64 loss at Northwestern a week ago in which all five Wildcat starters scored in double figures. It was the first time a team accomplished the feat against Iowa this year.

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said during a league teleconference on Monday that he's used the time off to address the defensive issues, but that, "we've always done that — that's the problem."

"We had breakdowns early in [the Northwestern] game," McCaffery said. "That's one of the things that would concern any coach. As the game goes on, you're going to have some breakdowns … The breakdowns we had shouldn't have been occurring as early as they did in that game. That was what was disappointing to me."

Penn State (11-15, 3-10 Big Ten) guard Tim Frazier and his 18.5 points per game await the Hawkeyes (13-12, 5-7) in State College, Pa., tonight.

Which defensive team shows up for Iowa could go a long way in keeping the team above .500 overall.

Frazier is second in the Big Ten in scoring and fresh in Iowa's mind. The junior posted one of the quietest 23-point, 5-rebound, and 5-assist performances of the season in the Hawkeyes' 77-64 victory over Penn State on Feb. 4.

Players such as Frazier — opposing team's best players — have given Iowa problems even when the Hawkeyes have marked them as key individuals to stop. Iowa has held the opposing team's leading scorer under his season average only twice in 12 conference contests.

And in more cases than the Black and Gold would like, others have gone off as well.

That was the case for Nebraska guard Brandon Richardson, whose 3-point barrage led to a career-high 25 against Iowa on Jan. 26. Richardson entered the game with a career average of 6 points per game.

Indiana center Cody Zeller was up next, and he dropped a career-best 26 points — 14 of which came from dunks — on Jan. 29. Freshman guard Dave Sobolewski led Northwestern with a career-high 23 on Feb. 9.

Frazier has continued his All-Big Ten level of play since leaving Iowa City two weeks ago. He was 1 assist shy of a triple-double in the Nittany Lions' last game, against Nebraska on Feb. 11.

Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said on Monday he normally doesn't promote his players.

But then he did exactly that.

"It's pretty amazing what this kid has done all year," Chambers said of Frazier. "He's earned the right to be in the same breath as [Wisconsin's] Jordan Taylor and the great point guards in this league — and all the great point guards across the country."

Both McCaffery and Iowa guard Matt Gatens acknowledged shutting down Frazier is difficult, due to the 6-1 guard's skill set and how much he handles the ball.

Gatens said the key, then, is to simply make Frazier earn what he gets.

"It's a team effort [guarding Frazier] — they do a lot of ball screens for him," he said. "Kind of corralling him and keeping him out of the lane. Make him shoot 15 or 20 tough shots instead of 15 lay-ups. Make it hard on him and make him shoot a bad percentage from the field."

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


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