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Hawks see some of themselves in Ducks

[ 0 ] March 17, 2012 |

A pattern developed as members of the Iowa men’s basketball team were asked to describe their opponent on Sunday in the second-round of the National Invitation Tournament.

The more the players talked about the Oregon Ducks, the more they ended up talking about their own team.

“They play similar to us, to tell you the truth,” sophomore guard Devyn Marble said when asked if Oregon reminded him of any other team. “So if anybody, I would say us.”

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery also sees the similarities, which includes per-game scoring averages that are almost identical at 72.9 for Oregon and 72.3 for Iowa.

“They’re going to push it off makes and misses and they’re going to change defenses and they spread the ball around,” McCaffery said. “So they do a really good job of being unselfish. So I think there are a lot of similarities there.”

Oregon also does a good job of playing at home where it has won its last five games and 16 of 19 games overall this season. The Ducks are 23-9 overall and they haven’t lost at Matthew Knight Arena since a Jan. 29 defeat against Oregon State.

Oregon’s basketball court is far from typical — its framed on all sides by a forest of painted fir trees, common to the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon has won 12 of its last 16 games and has not lost two consecutive games all season.

The Ducks, who are seeded third, advanced to the second round by defeating Louisiana State 96-76 Tuesday in Eugene, Ore. Iowa, which is seeded seventh, advanced with an 84-75 victory over Dayton on Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

It was Iowa’s first victory in a postseason tournament since a 54-53 win at Iowa State in the second round of the 2003 NIT. The victory also secured Iowa (18-16) its first winning season since the 2006-07 campaign.

Iowa has won all five of its previous games against Oregon, but Sunday’s game, which tips off at 4:05 p.m. and will be televised by ESPNU, will be the first time the teams have faced each other since 1962.

Senior guard Devoe Joseph, who played his first three seasons at Minnesota, leads Oregon in scoring with a 17.0 per-game average. Joseph played three games against Iowa while at Minnesota. He didn’t score in the first, but he had 12 points and five assists in the second game and 17 points in the third game.

“He’s great in transition, but he’s also really good in half court,” McCaffery said of the 6-foot-4 Joseph. “And he can get his own shot. He moves well without the ball. He’s great at the point of the press with his length and his quickness and his anticipation.

“He’s playing extremely well.”

Senior Olu Ashaolu complements Joseph on the inside and has a similar background as somebody who also transferred late into the program.

Ashaolu transferred to Oregon for his senior season after playing his first three seasons at Louisiana Tech. The Iowa players and coaches already have seen up close what Ashaolu can do, with him scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds during a 77-58 loss to Iowa on Dec. 21, 2010.

“He’s a real good player,” McCaffery said. “He’s got a real unique skill set to be that powerful. He can put it on the deck. He can go either way. He runs the floor. And he’s a tenacious offensive rebounder.”

As for the Hawkeyes, they’re coming off a victory over Dayton in which they shot 56.9 percent from the field, had 23 assists on 33 field goals and overcame leading scorer Matt Gatens being held to just seven points.

Freshman forward Aaron White led Iowa with a career-high 25 points and 11 rebounds against Dayton. Sophomore forwards Zach McCabe and Melsahn Basabe finished with 20 and 15, points, respectively.

Oregon shot 57.6 percent (34-of-59) and had 10 steals during its victory over LSU in the first round.

Dana Altman is in his second season as the Oregon coach. He spent the previous 11 seasons as the coach at Creighton, where he posted a 2-1 record against Iowa.

Iowa’s last victory in the NCAA Tournament came against Creighton with Altman as its coach in 2001.

“They’re really an aggressive offensive team,” McCabe said. “They’re very good at shooting threes and getting into their offense.

“And from what I saw of their defense, they press and they get up into you. But we’ve faced stuff like that all year and we’re pretty confident going in there.”

The winner of Sunday’s game will face Washington in the quarterfinals Tuesday in Seattle. Washington advanced by defeating Northwestern 76-55 Friday at home.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or pharty@press-citizen.com

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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