No. 23 Hawkeyes to square off in neutral site game against Drake in Big Four Classic


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The grind of college basketball’s season is having an effect on the Iowa men’s basketball team. After a grueling three-day tournament in the Bahamas last week, the Black and Gold defeated Notre Dame Tuesday night in front of a packed Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The pace isn’t slowing — Iowa will square off against Drake in the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic on Saturday night in Des Moines.

“It’s tough, but this is basketball,” Devyn Marble said following the victory over Notre Dame. “If you want to do this for a living, you’re going to have to be able to do it regardless. Whether it’s in college, overseas, or whatever, we love this game. We signed up for this, and that’s the type of professionalism it takes to get the job done at this level.”

Drake (6-1) has played well in the early goings this season. On Dec. 1, the Bulldogs capped a Fresno State Classic title with a 65-57 win over Cal State-Bakersfield.

“Tremendous,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said about Drake’s play thus far in 2013. “Been one of the most impressive teams in my view. They go on the road, win their first game. But to go to California and win three in three days, it’s pretty impressive. 6-1 start, Ray’s [Giacoletti] got them going, yeah. Really impressed with them.”

As always, a key factor for the Hawkeyes will be substitutions and how McCaffery uses his diverse lineup options.

Against Notre Dame, Iowa decided to go with a smaller group for much of the second half, limiting the minutes of center Gabriel Olaseni, despite his impressive performance in the first half.

At the break against the Fighting Irish, Olaseni led the team in points, rebounds, and assists. He re-entered the game in the second half but only for a short period of time.

“I should have gotten him [Olaseni] back in there,” McCaffery said following Iowa’s win. “That was a mistake on my part. He deserved to go back in, and I feel bad about that, actually.”

Adam Woodbury, who much of the Hawkeye faithful expected to take a step forward in his sophomore campaign, has struggled at times in 2013, which may open the door for Olaseni to grab more playing time.

Against Notre Dame, Woodbury was matched against Garrick Sherman for an extended period of time. Sherman throttled the Black and Gold’s interior defense for 29 points and 9 rebounds, leaving many wondering if Woodbury will be able to handle the duties of protecting the rim against tougher competition.

How the Hawkeyes allocate minutes at the center position isn’t (and probably won’t turn into) a full-blown controversy yet, just something to keep an eye on. Drake tends to play small at times, which could push McCaffery to play without Olaseni and Woodbury for stretches once again.

Regardless, the Bulldogs are another worthy opponent on Iowa’s schedule. Just four games remain on the Hawkeyes’ slate before the Big Ten season begins, and Drake could prove to be as tough a foe as any Iowa faces before conference play begins.

“It’s another test for us,” junior forward Aaron White said. “I’m really happy Coach McCaffery set up this nonconference [schedule] like he did. We’ve really been challenged, not only in these last four games, but we’ve got Drake, Iowa State coming up. And I think we’ll be ready for the Big Ten because of what we’ve gone through already.”

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