Men’s basketball doesn’t look in rear-view mirror in preparing for latest contest

BY BEN ROSS | NOVEMBER 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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Iowa didn’t play like the men’s basketball team fans were led to believe would finally make it do the NCAA Tournament in its last game, an 83-75 win over the University of Nebraska-Omaha on Nov. 10.

The Black and Gold was down 7 points at halftime, in a game in which it was favored by 28 over a team that is in just its second year of being a Division-I basketball program.

But Iowa was able to pull away thanks largely to its success at the free-throw line. The Hawkeyes went 38-of-49 from the charity stripe and won despite going 3-of-14 from 3-point range.

But getting free shots isn’t something Iowa can likely rely on, and it shouldn’t have to, given the teams it faces in its early schedule. But the Hawkeyes did what they had to do to win that game, and head coach Fran McCaffery said following the victory that his team will do what it has to in order to win tonight when the Maryland-Eastern Shore men’s basketball team — a squad Iowa is 4-0 all-time against — comes to Iowa City.

“I love to get that [49 free throws] every game, I don’t know if we can get that every game, but it’s going to be a point of emphasis where we’re going to drive and throw it inside. It has to be a combination of both,” McCaffery said. “We did what we had to do to win this game; it’s on to the next.”

Eastern Shore won just two games all of last season to go with its 26 losses, but it comes into Carver-Hawkeye with a victory under its belt to go along with a loss. The Eastern Shore Hawks fell to Columbia, 73-54, in their season-opener but defeated Division-II Salisbury on Tuesday.

Tonight’s game should be more reminiscent of Iowa’s 82-39 season-opening win over the North Carolina-Wilmington. But after a performance like the one this team posted over Nebraska-Omaha, nothing can be certain. The only thing that is certain, however, is that Iowa will have to begin shooting above its current 37.5 percent mark from the field if its going to win any meaningful games this season.

All is certainly not lost. Iowa junior forward Aaron White said there were still a lot of good things to take away from the win over Nebraska-Omaha and that his team learned to not take anyone for granted after nearly falling in its second game of the season.

“We have great character, unselfish guys. The guys who finished the game weren’t the guys who started the game,” White said after the win over the Mavericks. “You can’t take any opponent for granted — that’s a big lesson you can learn from this game. Everyone on our schedule is capable of beating us if we don’t play the right way. Hopefully, that opened our eyes tonight.”

To call that game an eye-opener is perhaps an understatement. But close wins in tight games are usually a signature of all quality teams in just about every sport, regardless of opponent.

Iowa senior guard Devyn Marble put it best when talking about what could have happened against Nebraska-Omaha and what will need to be done in readying for tonight’s contest.

“Each game still means a lot, it’s not a significant win, but it could have been a significant loss,” Marble said after the win on Sunday. “Therefore, it still means a lot. We know that. We’re not trying to overlook any opponent. We have Maryland-Eastern Shore on Thursday; we’re just going to prepare for them.”

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