By Pat Harty |Iowa City Press-Citizen
The message has been sent by Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery.
The lack of effort and toughness that hindered his team during this past Sunday’s 95-67 beat-down at Michigan is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated again.
“The bottom line is you can play poorly, but you play hard,” McCaffery said Tuesday. “I don’t know if I looked at that game and said, `boy, we really stunk it up. We didn’t play that poorly. We didn’t play with the effort, intensity and concentration to beat a team of that caliber.
“That is a difficult thing to deal with sometimes as a coach, as a program as we build and try to get better.”
Iowa (11-4, 0-2 Big Ten) will face another Big Ten team of high caliber when it plays No. 22 Michigan State (12-3, 1-1) on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
McCaffery said he would even consider benching Iowa’s top two scorers – junior guard Devyn Marble and sophomore forward Aaron White – if they continue to lack toughness, especially on defense.
“It’s hard sometimes; let’s say for example, the two biggest culprits are your two leading scorers, which is arguably what the case was in our last game,” McCaffery said. “That’s a dilemma.
“When Marble and White are struggling defensively, we still have to score. That’s out two leading scorers. That makes that decision a lot more complicated, quite frankly. But it may come to that.”
As bad as it was for McCaffery to watch his team be dismantled from the bench at Michigan, the film session afterwards might have been worse. It lasted twice as long as most post-game film critiques do and was very telling to the players.
“Obviously, he’s going to look to me and Devyn and some of us that have been around and done this and use us as an example and I’m fine with that,” White said. “I view myself as kind of a leader for this team and the way I play kind of dictates how the other guys play around me.”
Iowa was more competitive in its Big Ten opener against No. 5 Indiana than it was against Michigan, losing to the Hoosiers 69-65 on New Year’s Eve at home. But the competitiveness went beyond the final score.
“The truth of the matter is we did not play well against Indiana, but we fought them,” McCaffery said. “Granted, Ok, we had 15,400 people helping us. But it was a different feeling that you had at the end of that game.”
White said it’s hardly time to panic or to call Thursday’s game against the Spartans a must win. The players held a meeting after the Michigan loss in which they stressed to each other to remain calm.
Iowa was considered by some as a sleeper pick to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006 after advancing to the second-round of the National Invitation Tournment last season.
“I would just describe it as kind of don’t jump to any conclusions and don’t think the world is ending today because we have a little losing streak going,” White said. “It’s a long season, a lot of winnable games.
“This conference is tough and we’re learning that early. I just wanted to get them together and keep the focus and keep playing for one another and having fun with the game.”
McCaffery seems optimistic that the problems at Michigan wouldn’t surface again.
“I don’t think it will happen again because I think we have character in that room,” McCaffery said.
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball