Sophomore forward Melsahn Basabe is expected to make his 48th consecutive start when the Iowa basketball team faces sixth-ranked Ohio State on Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
But that doesn’t mean he’ll be playing with the game on the line.
Basabe only played 11 minutes and was held scoreless against Minnesota on Wednesday, and yet Iowa (10-6, 2-1 Big Ten) still escaped from Williams Arena in Minneapolis with a 64-62 victory.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery instead went with the combination of sophomore Zach McCabe and freshman Aaron White at power forward against the Gophers and they responded by combining for 22 points and 13 rebounds.
“At some point you’ve got to go with other people,” McCaffery said. “That’s really all it was.
“It was not a reflection on what he’s done. I was; what do we do to win this game? McCabe and White needed to be on the floor.”
McCaffery said he couldn’t have sat Basabe for extended minutes last season without the team suffering on the court because of a lack of depth.
“Hopefully, it will be incentive for him to pick it up,” McCaffery said of the 6-foot-7 Basabe, who made the Big Ten all-Freshmen team last season. “He’s typically a guy we have to have on the floor. We’ve had some tight games this year where if he wasn’t on the floor we wouldn’t have won.”
McCaffery could’ve been referring to the Wisconsin game on New Year’s Eve when Basabe helped lead the upset by scoring 14 points, grabbing nine rebounds and making two steals in 33 minutes of action at the Kohl Center.
Basabe, who is from Glen Cove, N.Y., also had one of his best games as a Hawkeye in his first game against Ohio State last season. He more than held his own against all-America forward Jared Sullinger by scoring 22 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking six shots during the 73-68 loss on Jan. 4, 2011 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It’s real disappointing when you don’t play well because you feel like you’re letting the team down and I felt like that,” Basabe of the Minnesota game. “But I was the happiest person in the building to see us win. I’m not a player that is self-centered around myself. I was real pleased with my team’s effort and I can roll with it now because it’s a big-time win.
“Now we go into a home game with a pretty big-time opponent where we have momentum. I just can’t wait for it.”
Basabe also had a stretch this season where he scored just two points in four consecutive games. However, he rebounded from that slump and had scored in double figures in seven of eight games until being shutout at Minnesota.
As for the 6-9, 265-pound Sullinger, he enters Saturday’s game with 26 career double-doubles in scoring and rebounding. He just missed having double-doubles in both games against Iowa last season. Sullinger scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the first game against Iowa and he had 13 points and nine rebounds during Ohio State’s 70-48 victory in the second game last Jan. 19 in Columbus.
“Really, every night it’s like you’re going up against somebody,” Basabe said. “The Big Ten is just so competitive. Once you get over one obstacle there is another one. And this could be the biggest yet.”
Ohio State (14-2, 2-1) has won six games in a row against Iowa and eight of the last nine overall. Iowa’s last victory over the Buckeyes was by a 53-48 margin on Feb. 2, 2008 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Saturday’s game has a chance to be a sellout with only about 1,400 tickets remaining as of early Friday afternoon.
Iowa sold out one home game against Illinois last season, but many of the tickets were purchased by Illinois fans.
McCaffery hopes that winning back-to-back Big Ten road games for the first time since the 2006-07 season will help with ticket sales.
“I’ve said over and over how impressed I’ve been with the Hawk fans, how they’ve been so loyal to us,” said McCaffery, who is in his second season as the Iowa coach. “I would hope it would be a sellout. You never know.
“I think Ohio State creates a certain amount of attention and deservedly so, what they’ve done and where they are presently. I think anytime your team starts to play better your fan base recognizes that. They typically respond in a positive way.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball