Basabe playing like frosh in past two contests

BY BEN ROSS | DECEMBER 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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The sky seemed to be the limit for Melsahn Basabe following his first year as a division-I basketball player for Iowa. The now-senior forward was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team after starting all 31 games for the Hawkeyes in 2010-11.

But Basabe started to struggle after his frosh campaign. The Glen Cove, N.Y., native gained some weight and lost a step. He started 21 games as a sophomore and just 18 last year. He hasn’t been able to touch the 7 rebounds and 11 points he averaged as a freshman. His role on the team could have easily diminished this year as other capable forwards such as Zach McCabe and Jarrod Uthoff battled for playing time.

Basabe said he’s been made very aware of the regression he’s made in the stat book since his first year at Iowa. But he thinks he can still get better.

“My game has always been there; I just think it’s the consistency factor,” Basabe said after the game. “I’ve been pretty productive even though a lot of people get on me about my career. I’ve been competing with the best players since Day One. I’m not thinking about my freshman year, because I want to be better than my freshman year. I’m older. I should be better than I was as a freshman.”

After a lackluster beginning of the season, it looked as though a decreased role for Basabe would be the case, too. McCabe and Uthoff see comparable minutes and often post better stats than Basabe despite his starting every game.

But after two solid contests, Basabe is showing he should keep his starting spot, rebounding and scoring in a way reminiscent of his freshman year. He ended last night’s game with a double-double consisting of 12 points and 11 rebounds. He netted 15 points and 8 rebounds against Drake on Dec. 7.

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said that he wants Basabe to succeed too, noting that the team plays better when the recruit he brought over from his previous coaching job at Siena is on his A-game.

“He’s obviously capable when he’s playing with energy like that,” McCaffery said. “It makes a big difference for our team.”

Basabe wasn’t the only one who reaped double-double status. Gabe Olaseni and Uthoff each recorded a double-double against an incredibly overmatched Fairleigh-Dickinson squad Monday night in a 92-59 win. Olaseni led the team with 14 rebounds and another 10 points, and Uthoff went 10-10 with rebounds and points. The last time Iowa had three players record a double-double in points and rebounds in the same game was on Dec. 29, 1993, when Jess Settles, Jim Bartels, and Russ Millard went off against Cal-Irvine.

Iowa had the game won early on despite losing the tip. With five minutes left in the game, the Hawkeyes cleared the bench, and every healthy Iowa player saw game action against the Knights.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the contest was that it featured the first minutes this season in which both Olaseni and starting center Adam Woodbury were on the floor at the same time. It was only for a few minutes in the second half, but with all the lineup combinations McCaffery has put out this year, it’s a one-two punch that features both of Iowa’s big men that’s worth looking at as the season draws on.

McCaffery said he put the two out there at the same time simply to get Woodbury more minutes in the game, but Olaseni said they practice having both centers on the floor often, and he likes playing with another player above 6-10 at the same time.

“Earlier in the year and still sometimes now, we always try me and Woody together against a couple of the guys. Normally we go zone, so when [McCaffery] looked to me and I was still in I was kind of surprised. It’s always good having another big strong defender out there. I feel like every day in practice we work on our high-low action. I’m just excited to play with him; hopefully we can do that again sometime.”

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