McCabe, Hawkeyes, seek redemption against UNI

BY TOM CLOS | DECEMBER 14, 2012 6:30 AM

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Zach McCabe remembers last year’s 80-60 blowout loss at Northern Iowa.

In fact, the junior forward can’t forget it.

“It’s definitely still in my mind,” McCabe said. “Any time you lose to a team like that by 20 points, along with all the stuff that happened in that game, it’s motivating for us.”

That 2011 contest quickly dissolved for Iowa; a 5-point halftime deficit went south in a hurry thanks to an 0-for-8 3-point shooting display in the second frame. Even more ugly were the 25 personal fouls called against the Hawkeyes — 14 of which came following the intermission.

Freshman center Adam Woodbury wasn’t at the McLeod Center 12 months ago, but he recalled watching the showdown on television. He remembered the game’s increasingly odd nature and said the end result has stuck with him since that day.

“It was a crazy game with a lot of technicals and calls that could have gone either way,” he said. “I know we didn’t come out with a win, that was the most important thing.”

Senior forward Eric May said the rivalry Iowa has with Northern Iowa carries the same value as the one with Iowa State.

And because of that, last year’s result stings just a little bit more than any other blowout loss.

“For me, I’ve played with some of these [UNI] guys through AAU and growing up,” May said. “It’s not just another game to win — there’s a little extra when you’re playing in-state teams.”

In Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery’s mind, there was only one aspect — fouls and missed shots aside — that doomed the Hawkeyes a year ago.

The Panthers were simply the stronger team.

“If you just break down how we played, we just didn’t play well enough to win that game,” he said. “They played better.”

The Hawkeyes (8-2) will have the chance to be better when they line up against Northern Iowa in the Big Four Classic in Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday. The four-team event features a pair of matchups highlighting the state’s top college basketball programs; Iowa State and Drake will meet in the late game.

The Panthers (6-3) have won three-straight games, the most recent an impressive 82-77 OT victory at George Mason on Dec. 8.

Iowa will have to keep an eye on senior guard Marc Sonnen, who has made a 3-pointer in 19-straight games. The upperclassman finished one 3 away from the Northern Iowa single-game record in last week’s win over the Patriots.

“UNI has got a lot of weapons,” McCaffery said. “They’re substantially more athletic than I think anybody gives them credit for; their guards shoot 3s, and their bigs can shoot 3s.”

Emotional letdowns are always possible following big victories such as the Hawkeyes’ triumph over the Cyclones, but McCaffery isn’t worried.

“There was plenty of time between games, and that’s what the Big Ten is,” he said. “Two, three days later, you better be ready because, if you’re not, you’re going to get your ears pinned back.”

McCabe finished last December’s meeting with 2 points, was called for a questionable technical foul, and ultimately fouled out. It contributed to what became a nightmarish day overall in Cedar Falls for the Black and Gold.

This year though the location has shifted, so has the power between the two programs. It’s power McCabe hopes his squad can use to make up for 12 months of misery.

“What happened last year still leaves a bitter taste in our mouths,” he said. “But we’re a deeper team, a lot more talented with a better bench, and we’ll be ready to go.”

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