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Men's hoops to face Cornhuskers in Lincoln

BY BEN SCHUFF | FEBRUARY 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa men's basketball team played in a winnable game on Jan. 26.

But it left Carver-Hawkeye Arena that night with 79-73 loss to Nebraska.

The Hawkeyes were ahead for a considerable portion of that contest but were outscored by the Cornhuskers, 18-12, in the final 5:29.

"The interesting thing about the first Nebraska game β€” we were in a position to win," Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said in a teleconference on Monday. "What I said at the time β€” and it still holds true β€” the reality was that was a game that either team could've won. They played better than we did in the last [five] minutes. You have to credit them for that and their coaching staff."

The Hawkeyes (15-14, 7-9 Big Ten) will play what should be another winnable game tonight when they take the floor in the Devaney Sports Center on Nebraska's Senior Night. The Cornhuskers (12-15, 4-12) are tied with Penn State for last place in the Big Ten, and they have lost six of their last seven games since beating Iowa in late January.

Nebraska leading scorer Bo Spencer's health was an area of concern earlier this week after the senior sprained his left ankle on Feb. 25. The injury occurred during the last play of the first half in Nebraska's 62-34 loss at Michigan State. Spencer didn't return after halftime.

The Omaha World-Herald reported on Feb. 26 that X-rays of Spencer's ankle came back negative, and Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler said he expected Spencer to play tonight against Iowa.

Sadler said during the Big Ten coach's teleconference on Monday that Spencer "got treatment three times [Sunday]. Definitely won't practice [Monday]. Hopefully, he'll be good enough to where he can give us some minutes on Wednesday night. We'll see."

Despite the star forward's unclear status, Sadler said he doesn't expect many differences tonight compared with the teams' first meeting in Iowa City a month ago.

"I don't know that we'll do that many things different, but at the same time, you're more familiar with them playing the second time," he said. "You know kind of what they want to do against you. There will be minor adjustments at this point in the season but not a whole lot."

Spencer scored 16 points against Iowa in the first matchup but played second fiddle to Cornhusker guard Brandon Richardson. The senior posted a career-high 25 points in the first meeting, torching the Hawkeyes by making 6-of-7 3-point attempts. He has made 8 treys in Nebraska's last seven games combined.

Iowa guard Matt Gatens has displayed a shooting stroke in the Hawkeyes' last four games similar to the one Richardson showed in Carver-Hawkeye. Gatens earned Co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors on Monday; the senior is averaging 26.5 points in the last four contests and shooting 73 percent (24-of-33) from beyond the arc.

"You try to defend him, just like everyone else is trying to do," Sadler said. "That basket, I'm sure, to him is looking very, very big. We'll try to do the best we can with him."

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


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