The Iowa men’s basketball team will have a big chance to help bring the fans back to Carver Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday night when the Hawkeyes take on Clemson in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Mediacom Court.
Fans were embarassed after the team’s loss to Campbell last week and did not support the Hawkeyes on Saturday against IPFW. A win against Clemson could prove that second-year Iowa coach Fran McCaffery’s building project is still on track.
“I don’t think it’s put them in a funk,” McCaffery said. “I just don’t know that we’re at the point yet as a group that we can say okay we’re going to show up and drill whoever’s on our screen. We’re not there yet. Okay, does that affect your confidence level? Well, perhaps. But we’ve got really good teams left on our schedule, and a lot of them are away from here. So we just have to legitimately continue to try to get better individually.”
While McCaffery says that Iowa is not in a funk as a team, a few starters have been playing in some sort of funk for most of this season.
Iowa guard Bryce Cartwright worked out of his slump Saturday, finishing in double figures for the first time this year, but sophomore Melsahn Basabe and junior Eric May have struggled in team’s losses against Creighton and Campbell and even in the win against IPFW.
“I think it’s always something you’re concerned with when guys aren’t playing as well as you know they’re capable of playing,” McCaffery said. “I thought Bryce took a pretty good step in the right direction the other day. I think he’s playing a lot better. Melsahn is still struggling, but I think the thing that’s been encouraging for me is he’s practiced well. He’s really addressing the situation. He’s working hard. He’s trying to get in better shape.”
Iowa has eight players scoring at least 7.2 points per game but only senior guard Matt Gatens is averaging in double-figures at this point in the season. Gatens is scoring 16.8 points per game and pulling down 3.7 rebounds per contest. He will be playing in and starting in his 100th game Tuesday night.
The rest of the Hawkeyes have had their moments but only Gatens has been consistent. Cartwright seems to be working his way back, but overall, Iowa’s bench is playing much better than the starters.
Freshman guard Josh Oglesby is averaging 7.7 points per game, while freshman Aaron White is scoring 7.8 points and grabbing 4.5 rebounds per game. Sophomore Zach McCabe, who started his first game of the season Saturday, is scoring 8.5 points per game and pulling down 3.8 boards. Also, Roy Devyn Marble is scoring 7.2 points per game but also has 18 assists to only just four turnovers.
Tuesday night’s battle with Clemson is the third meeting all-time between the two schools. Iowa leads the series, 2-0, with the last win coming in Iowa City in 1981. The game will be shown on ESPNU as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. It is Bryce Cartwright Bobblehead Night, Dollar Hot Dog Night and Residence Hall Night (students get in free).
Clemson is coming off a 22-12 season in which first-year coach Brad Brownell guided the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers are 3-2 this year with their two losses coming by a combined three points to College of Charleston and Coaston Carolina.
Clemson is led by point guard Andre Young, one of three starters returning from last year’s tournament team. Young averages 14.4 points and 3.8 assists per game, while Milton Jennings averages 12.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest. Devin Booker and Tanner Smith also are strong players down low, which means Basabe has to improve his play in a hurry or Clemson could have a field day inside the paint.
“This is where we really need him,” McCaffery said. “I mean, these two guys are all A-caliber players in terms of talent and skill level, and they’re bigger than he is.”
Two key players for Iowa on Tuesday will be Basabe and May. Basabe needs to stay out of early foul trouble and start fast offensively, while May has to continue to take good shots and rebound the basketball.
“For him, what he’s got to do is keep defending and he’s got to rebound,” McCaffery said of May. “He can’t be a non-rebounding three if he’s not scoring. You can’t have that. He’s got to rebound better. So for him it’s a matter of focus to get on the glass and get six or seven rebounds, lock up the guy he’s guarding and if the offense is there, it’s there.”
McCaffery also said Monday during his press conference that senior center Devon Archie should be available off the bench. Archie had started the first five games for Iowa before McCabe took his spot Saturday against IPFW. Archie ended up not playing at all due to an injury.
“Archie looks good. He was hurting big time. I didn’t even remember the play in the Campbell game. I guess he went for a loose ball or went for a steal and landed on his wrist,” McCaffery said. “He did a little bit the day before the IPFW game, and I wasn’t going to put him in, but he had a good workout yesterday, so he should be okay unless he tweaks it again, which hopefully he won’t.”
The Hawkeyes are 2-8 all-time in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and are 11-23 all-time against opponents from the Atlantic Coast Conference. Tip off from Carver Hawkeye Arena is scheduled for 8:20 p.m.
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