Hawkeyes head to Ames for most anticipated matchup of year

BY BEN ROSS | DECEMBER 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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For the first time since 1987, Iowa and Iowa State will face each other in a men’s basketball matchup as ranked foes. The Hawkeyes are underdogs going into the contest, and the Black and Gold are going to try to steal this one from Iowa State.

No. 17 Iowa State (7-0) is the only undefeated team left in the Big 12, and it leads the nation in points scored per game with 91.7 a contest. Fred Hoiberg’s squad is led by the hot-handed Melvin Ejim, the only player in college basketball to average 18 points and around 8 rebounds a game. The Cyclones have five players who average more than 10 points a game, and they have the chance to tear apart a suffocating Iowa defense that gives up fewer than 65 points per contest.

No. 23 Iowa took a win from its rivals a year ago in a 80-71 victory in Carver-Hawkeye. Aaron White scored 18 points, and the Hawkeyes would love to see a similar showing out of the junior forward this evening.

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery spoke highly of the Iowa State team. He said tonight’s contest isn’t just important to the two teams playing, it’s important to the state of Iowa as a whole.

“It legitimizes everything. You have two really good teams going at it. When you’re a player, you want to play in meaningful games. You want to play in a game that means a lot to a lot of people, and this game means a lot to a lot of people,” McCaffery said. “It’s an important game. It’s why you work so hard. It’s an opportunity you cherish, you’ll remember, you want to play and prepare your best, and that’s what we’ll try to do.”

Both teams can go deep into their rosters: Iowa State has seven players who average at least 20 minutes a game, and Iowa has a 10-man rotation in which everyone is averaging at least 16 minutes an outing.

This game is shaping up to sort of a barn-burner, too. Both teams are in the top 10 in the nation in scoring, rebounding, and assists, so lack of offense should not be an issue. Each squad has played good teams on its slate, but the Cyclones have a bit of an advantage defeating then-No.7 Michigan earlier in the year at Hilton Coliseum. Iowa still has wins over solid teams in Xavier and Notre Dame.

Anthony Clemmons isn’t buying into the hype surrounding Iowa State and Hilton Coliseum. He said the experience Iowa has is more important than wherever it’s playing.

“I heard [Hilton is] crazy,” Clemmons said. “I heard it’s hard to win there. I’ve seen games on TV; last year, Kansas was one of the top teams in the nation, and it hardly won. We’re an experienced team — that helps a lot. We’ve played in a lot of tough environments; we just have to play our game. We’ve played road games before.”

Iowa’s three seniors; Devyn Marble, Zach McCabe, and Melsahn Basabe, have never won a game at the illustrious basketball arena in Ames. McCabe, an Iowa native, said getting a win there would not only mean something to him personally, but also as a team, because Iowa failed to get a win on the road against a ranked foe last year.

“We never won a game there; we’ve had such a strong season so far this would only help us in our season,” McCabe said. “We couldn’t get a game on the road against a ranked team; this would just help us know we can beat any team out there, especially on the road. We’re excited about this game; everyone has been looking forward to it, we’re ready to go.”

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