The Iowa men’s basketball team has had plenty of ups and downs this season on the hardwood, but a win Friday night against Iowa State in Ames would be a big step in re-energizing a fan base starving for a winner.
The roller coaster ride to start the year included a 3-0 start, a bad loss to Campbell and losses to Missouri Valley Conference representatives Creighton and Northern Iowa. The Cyclones are next up for the Hawkeyes, who are trying to get through growing pains of being young, inexperienced and working through yet another new coach.
Friday night’s game begins at 7 p.m. at Hilton Coliseum. Iowa leads the all-time series 42-22, but the Hawkeyes are 16-16 in Ames and the Cyclones are seeking their third straight win in the series. Iowa State won at Carver Hawkeye Arena last year, 75-72.
Iowa (5-4) will likely be without starting point guard Bryce Cartwright for the second straight game, so expect sophomore Roy Devyn Marble to take his place. Marble has been the single bright spot lately as he has averaged 11.2 points, three assists and 2.8 rebounds in the past five games. He had 14 points to lead Iowa against Northern Iowa on Tuesday.
The Hawkeyes have just one player averaging in double figures — senior Matt Gatens at 13.8 per game — but six other players average at least 7.4 points per contest.
On the flip side, Iowa State (6-3) features four players in double figures, led by transfer Royce White, who leads the team in scoring, rebounding and assists from his forward position.
The Cyclones have a better starting lineup, but Iowa’s bench should be more productive Friday.
Keys to the Game
For Iowa to win this game, the Hawkeyes will have to win the rebounding battle and get hands up in the face of the Cyclone shooters.
Iowa State averages 9.3 makes from long range per game this season, led by Scott Christopherson and transfers Chris Allen and Chris Babb.
Both Allen and have Babb are familiar with the Hawkeyes as Allen came to Iowa State from Michigan State, while Babb transferred in from Penn State.
Christopherson has had an off season so far when it comes to scoring, but he always shows up against the Hawkeyes. Last year, Christopherson canned seven triples and was the biggest reason Iowa State pulled off the victory in Iowa City.
Key Matchup: Melsahn Basabe vs. Royce White
If Iowa wins the game, that probably means sophomore Melsahn Basabe played better than White, who is a handful on offense for any Iowa player forced to guard him. Without a quality true point guard on the roster, White has been asked to be the point forward, which creates matchup problems with opposing defenses.
Basabe doesn’t have to outplay White because Iowa has plenty of depth to take pressure off him. However, Basabe can’t have one of his four-point, two-rebound games either. The Hawkeyes need at least 10 points and at least seven rebounds out of Basabe for Iowa to be in this game.
Roy Marble vs. Iowa State point guard
Marble has been Iowa’s best player over the past five games or so and he should factor in this one even more as Cartwright is expected to miss his second straight game.
Marble is long and lengthy and could create matchup troubles for Iowa State. The Cyclones do not have a true point guard, but Marble is not a true point guard either. It’ll be interesting to see who Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg puts on Marble in this one.
Hilton Coliseum Magic
The Hawkeyes need a fast start Friday to keep the crowd out of the game. The more reasons Iowa State gives its fans to create the “Hilton Magic” the better chance Iowa loses the game. Northern Iowa on Tuesday was the Hawkeyes’ first true road game, but the environment will be electric in Ames.
Iowa played well at the McLeod Center through 30 minutes but fell apart when things got tough. The Hawks have to fight through adversity much better than they did Tuesday night. A positive start will help their cause.
Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series
The Cyclones currently lead the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series 11-4 so far but four points will be on the line Friday night as the men’s basketball teams face off but the women’s swim teams also will be in action in Ames.
Iowa can close the game to 11-8 with a sweep, but an Iowa State win in one of the two events likely wraps up the season series for the Cyclones.