IOWA CITY, Ia. – Gabe Olaseni lived in a what-if world last season.
“A lot of times I was sitting on the bench thinking, ‘Man, I could have blocked that shot or deflected that pass,’ ” Olaseni said. “This year I’m actually in the game making plays.”
Heading into today’s 7 p.m. game with Gardner-Webb at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the 6-foot-10 sophomore center from London has logged 31 minutes over the first three games. He played a total of 37 minutes last season.
“It’s always good to know that you can get in the game and help your teammates,” Olaseni said.
Today’s contest, a preliminary game of the Cancun Challenge, will test Olaseni and his teammates. Gardner-Webb won at DePaul Thursday, 71-59, without injured starters Tashan Newsome, a guard, and Mike Byron, a center. Neither are expected to play today.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs opened the season with a 76-59 loss at North Carolina, lost at home to Lipscomb in a game Newsome left after just 3 minutes, and then came back one night later and gave DePaul fits with a zone defense. Iowa, just 4-for-21 from 3-point distance in Thursday’s 66-36 victory against Howard, expects to see that zone today.
Guard Max Landis scored a career-high 20 points at DePaul and forward Kevin Hartley added a career-high 16 points and 12 rebounds.
“That’s a terrific program,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “They’ve got athletes, they’ve got some experience and good guard play. We’ve got our hands full with them.”
Today’s game provides another opportunity for Olaseni to grow as a player, a dose of experience as he works to reach his potential.
“He’s almost too conscientious,” McCaffery said.
Olaseni would disagree.
“I always try to get things right in terms of my position and stuff,” Olaseni said. “I care so much about making the right play at t
imes, and being in the right position. I have to have a short-term memory. If I do make a mistake, I just have to move on from it.”
In Thursday’s game, Olaseni bit on a head fake by Mike Phillips, and then fouled him as he scored.
“That’s the kind of thing that a lot of kids would just be able to let go,” McCaffery said. “He knows he wasn’t supposed to leave the floor, and he’s probably tougher on himself than I am on him.”
After the play unfolded, McCaffery’s words in practice were ringing in Olaseni’s ears.
“A lot of times coach is telling me that if I do go for a shot fake and leave my feet, I can always recover and block it because I’m big enough and long enough,” Olaseni said. “Most of it is my personality,” Olaseni said. “I don’t want to let my teammates down.”
TODAY’S IOWA MEN’S GAME
WHO: Gardner-Webb (2-2) at Iowa (3-0)
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City
TIPOFF: 7 p.m.
TICKETS: $14 adults, $5 youth (18 and under) and UI students
TV: Mediacom; BTN.com
RADIO: WHO-AM (1040) and Hawkeye Radio Network
STAT LEADERS: Gardner-Webb — Max Landis 14.5 ppg; Kevin Hartley 7.5 rpg; Donta Harper 2.5 apg; Iowa — Devyn Marble 17 ppg; Aaron White 7.3 rpg; Mike Gesell 4.6 apg.
ABOUT THE RUNNIN’ BULLDOGS: Reserve guard Onzie Branch (5.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg) was a teammate of Drake’s Richard Carter last season at Cloud Community College, Kansas.
ABOUT THE HAWKEYES: The 36 points scored by Howard on Thursday were the fewest against an Iowa team since Bryant scored 36 on Dec. 5, 2008.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Gardner-Webb’s zone defense will test an Iowa team that is shooting just 32.1 percent from 3-point distance