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Game Preview: Nittany Lions come to Carver

[ 0 ] January 30, 2013 |

By Pat Harty | Iowa City Press-Citizen

His team is 2-5 in the Big Ten, coming off two consecutive losses and shooting just 30.3 percent from 3-point range.

So there is plenty that Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery would like to change about his team, but his approach to coaching it on a daily basis isn’t among them.

“It would be no different if we were 5-2 (in the Big Ten),” McCaffery said at a Tuesday news conference. “We would take the exact same approach. If we were 7-0 we would take the same approach.

“It’s still a grind. We still have a ton of games coming up.”

Iowa actually has 11 games left in the regular season, beginning with Thursday’s matchup against Penn State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes are 13-7 overall and 10-2 at home this season. However, both home losses came against Big Ten opponents Michigan State and Indiana by a combined seven points.

Penn State is 8-12 overall and 0-8 in the Big Ten under second-year coach Patrick Chambers.

“These are the dog days when you get in February, and that’s what is going to separate the teams that are going to be playing well in March and the teams that aren’t,” said McCaffery, who is trying to lead Iowa to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

McCaffery refuses to look ahead. His way of dealing with the big picture is to focus solely on the next game on the schedule.

That was apparent Tuesday when a reporter asked McCaffery what he thought it would take for Iowa to make the NCAA Tournament this season.

“We have to win our next game, that’s what we’ve got to do,” McCaffery said. “And then we’ve got to win the game after that and the game after that.”

Penn State, on the other hand, is just trying to win a Big Ten game for the first time this season. The Nittany Lions were considered a lower-level Big Ten team when the season started. And that was with star point guard Tim Frazier leading the way.

But he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the fourth game and was lost for the season.

Frazier’s absence has been felt on both ends of the court, but especially on offense where Penn State has scored 54 points or fewer in six of eight Big Ten games.

“They are still playing phenomenally hard defensively,” McCaffery said. “On the glass, they are incredibly physical and tenacious.”

Unlike his approach on a daily basis, McCaffery said he might consider changing his starting lineup as a response to how well junior forward Melsahn Basabe has played recently while coming off the bench.

The 6-foot-7 Basabe has averaged 10.2 points in the last five games and he leads the Big Ten in field-goal percentage at 64.7 percent. Basabe also led Iowa in rebounding in the last two games.

If he were to start, it likely would put 7-1 freshman Adam Woodbury on the bench. Woodbury has started every game this season, but is yet to score more than eight points in a conference game. He also has scored just two points in each of the past five Big Ten games.

“It’s not as simple as it may appear,” McCaffery said of switching the lineup. “Obviously, (Melsahn) is playing well. So the logical conclusion is; well, just put him in the starting lineup. It may be the right thing for the team. It may not be because he’s playing the best basketball of the last two years coming off the bench.”

Basabe has started 52 games as a Hawkeye, including all 31 games as a freshman. He said Tuesday that he doesn’t care if he starts.

“I just care about being on the court,” Basabe said. “I don’t care how I get there.”

McCaffery said his players don’t make a big deal about starting, but he knows the truth.

“I think everybody wants to start,” McCaffery said. “There is something about starting and saying you’re a starter, being in the starting lineup. Every competitor wants to be a starter.”

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

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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