McCaffery keeps starting lineup plans under lock and key

BY TOM CLOS | DECEMBER 04, 2012 6:30 AM

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Here’s what’s known: The Iowa men’s basketball team has dominated visiting opponents in Carver-Hawkeye Arena this season.

The Hawkeyes have won all five of their games in Iowa City this season by an average margin of 22 points, and they will try to continue their dominance when South Dakota shows up tonight.

The unknown is which five players Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery will have on the court when the Hawkeyes (6-2) and Coyotes (4-4) tip off.

The first seven games of 2012 saw the third-year head coach go with a mix of experience and youth in his starting lineup: junior forward Zach McCabe and junior guard Devyn Marble, sophomore forward Aaron White, and freshmen guard Mike Gesell and freshman center Adam Woodbury.

In the Hawkeyes’ 88-59 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 1, though, McCaffery decided to shake things up following back-to-back losses to Wichita State and Virginia Tech. He opted to start freshman guard Anthony Clemmons in place of McCabe to create a smaller but quicker lineup.

The freshman point guard looked a bit overcharged initially, but he regrouped to finish with a point, 5 assists and a pair of rebounds in his first career start.

“It was nice hearing my name called in the beginning, but I came in a little anxious,” Clemmons said. “I attacked the rim on the first play and missed a couple free throws, but as the game went on, I shook them off.”

The insertion of Clemmons into the starting lineup pushes Gesell to shooting guard and Marble to small forward. The three-guard lineup spread the floor and opened up many more avenues for each Hawkeye — especially the big men who dominated down low against the Islanders, finishing with 38 points in the paint.

“I really like [Anthony] playing the point, and I think Mike enjoyed playing the 2. It gives him the ability to show off his scoring ability,” Marble said. “And now with three creators on the court, it allows a lot of opportunities for the bigs to post up, and we have people who can get it in there to them.”

The Coyotes (4-4) are spearheaded by a trio of upperclassmen: senior guard Juevol Myles and juniors guard Karim Rowson and center Trevor Gruis. Each player averages double-figure point totals per contest, with Myles leading the bunch at 15.8 per game.

The Summit League representatives are winners in three of their last four games, the latest an 88-68 victory over Indiana University/Purdue University-Indianapolis on Dec. 1.

If McCaffery opts to stick with the small starting lineup, Marble is all for it. He knows Clemmons had experience starting in high school and trusts he’ll get his nerves under control if he makes another start.

“[Anthony’s] been in this before, in front of the crowd. It doesn’t bother him,” Marble said. “He’s fine.”

The head coach admitted the sudden change was mostly due to McCabe’s recent struggles rather than Clemmons’ emergence. The upperclassman has shot only 32 percent from the field and is averaging 5.9 points per contest.

“I felt like Zach would benefit from coming off the bench,” McCaffery said. “I felt he was pressing a little bit. I probably did it more for Zach than I did for Anthony.”

Still, which name will be penciled into the starting spot against the Coyotes tonight is anyone’s guess.
And the head coach won’t show his hand.

“We’ll see.” McCaffery said. “We’ll evaluate the [lineup changes]. It may stay, it may change again.”

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