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Turning the page: Iowa looks ahead to Northern Iowa

BY JACOB SHEYKO | DECEMBER 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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After Iowa’s 90-75 loss to Iowa State on Dec. 12, Aaron White said he wished Iowa could play the next day. He wanted to get the bitter taste of being blown out by an in-state rival on his home floor out of his mouth.

Instead, the Hawkeyes had more than a week for the loss to sit with them.

How did the Hawkeyes approach this week without a game?

“They’re very professional,” head coach Fran McCaffery said Thursday. “I think in that regard. Obviously, we didn’t play well in the last game. I would like to think if we had played well, we’d still be professional in how you approach the next practice, knowing that you have another great team coming up in the next game.”

That next great team is Northern Iowa, which enters the matchup against Iowa with only one defeat — a 93-87 double-overtime loss to VCU on Dec. 13.

As part of the Big Four Classic, the Hawkeyes and Panthers will meet at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday.

The Panthers, who were ranked 23rd in the nation until its first loss of the season, will not only provide another test for Iowa during its nonconference schedule, they also give the Hawkeyes plenty of reasons to flush the Iowa State loss.

“It’s tough because of how we played,” White said. “But at the same time, it’s kind of nice to work on our stuff. There was a stretch where it seemed like there were so many games.”

Iowa’s week break was a little different from most weeks. Because of finals, players got the first two days off. But then it was back to work.

The players didn’t just put the Iowa State loss on the backburner; instead they tried to learn from it. And because of the time off, the Hawkeyes got to focus on themselves rather than whom they played next — the players said they’d be introduced to Northern Iowa on Thursday.

“I feel like there was a couple of positive stuff in the [Iowa State] game,” Peter Jok said after watching the game film. “We watched about 30 minutes of film, and we took away a lot of negative stuff we need to work on to become a better team.”

While Iowa will get introduced to Northern Iowa a couple of days before the matchup, the two teams are more familiar than most opponents.

Numerous players from Iowa and Northern Iowa played together on the Iowa Barnstormers AAU basketball team.

Plus, players from both teams have played with and against each other, through high-school basketball, the Prime Time League this past summer, or the two times Iowa played Northern Iowa in the last three seasons — Iowa won last year but lost in 2011.

“The thing that stands out to me is that they’re all in,” McCaffery said about the Panthers. “Whether they’re experienced or whether it’s Jeremy [Morgan], or Wyatt [Lohaus], or the younger guys, they all accept whatever role has been given to them, and they share the ball.”

It doesn’t hold the same pedigree of the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry, but Iowa-Northern Iowa does hold significant weight for the Hawkeyes.

On top of being an in-state rivalry game, Northern Iowa will be the last quality opponent Iowa will face in during its nonconference schedule.

It’s also a matchup that hasn’t been without some trash talk.

Former Cedar Rapids Washington teammates Josh Oglesby and Wes Washpun talked over the phone on Wednesday. Washpun didn’t hold back, telling Oglesby that if he was matched up against Oglesby, he’d drop 30 points.

Of course, Oglesby noted that the trash talk was good-natured and in a joking manner.

But it’s also another reason for Iowa to move past its latest loss.

“You want to beat them,” Oglesby said. “For example, last night, when Wes was talking crap to me, all I wanted to do was beat him. I’m just like, ‘We got to win this game,’ but I think it just makes it more fun, and more exciting.”

Follow @JacobSheyko on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.


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