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Rick Brown: Hawkeyes must protect home court during rugged stretch

[ 0 ] January 16, 2014 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Nothing embraces a home-court advantage like college basketball.

“On the road, you play for silence,” Iowa forward Aaron White said. “At home, you play for noise.”

After years of apathy and a sea of empty seats in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the 14th-ranked Hawkeyes’ reborn success is reflected in the fact that the final seven home games, starting with Sunday’s noon contest against Minnesota, are sold out.

That’s all well, and good for the athletic department’s bottom line. But protecting the home court is paramount if this team is to crack the Big Ten’s perceived Big Three of No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 4 Michigan State and No. 11 Ohio State.

Read more: Why is Aaron White chuckling these days?

All three will be paying a visit to Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the weeks ahead. So will a dangerous Michigan team, trying to follow in the steps of last season’s national runner-up team. Minnesota has surprised, and Illinois and Purdue have upset potential.

“We know what’s at stake, and what’s on the line,” senior guard and leading scorer Devyn Marble said.

Iowa takes a streak of 19 consecutive home victories into Sunday’s game. The school record at Carver-Hawkeye Arena is 21 in a row spanning the 2004-05 to 2006-07 seasons. Only once in the 32-year history of the building has Iowa had an undefeated season — 17-0 in 2005-06. The 1992-93 and 1995-96 teams lost just once on the Carver parquet.

Iowa, the hunter in recent seasons, is suddenly the hunted. At home, at least, the hunt will take place on familiar turf. And the Hawkeyes need to take full advantage of the opportunity these sellout crowds provide.

“We’re just really excited that it’s going to be like that,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “I don’t think there is any question we’d all agree that you’re going to play better in that atmosphere. But in this league you’re going to play really good teams with really good players and really good coaches. You know, we just did it. We’re not the only team that did it, and we’re not going to be the only team that does it. Other teams are doing the same thing.”

Read more: Rick Brown’s College Basketball Notebook

Iowa is coming off Sunday’s upset victory at Ohio State. Two days later, Iowa’s athletic department announced that its remaining seven games were sold out.

“That’s wonderful,” senior forward Melsahn Basabe said. “Beautiful.”

Those fans will see seven teams trying to duplicate what the Hawkeyes pulled off in Columbus.

Those sellouts won’t be anything new to tournament-tested heavyweights. Their value will come in helping Iowa take its game up a notch.

“Hopefully the crowd will be loud and into the game,” White said.

Iowa averaged 11,635 fans overall and 12,188 in Big Ten games in 2010-11, when Marble, Basabe and Zach McCabe were freshmen and the team went 11-20 in McCaffery’s first season.

“Good support for an 11-20 team,” Basabe noted.

The victories, and attendance, have grown with each passing season.

“The fact that the last seven are all sold out is, I think, a testament to our guys and how they’ve played and how much they enjoy watching them play,” said McCaffery, whose first of 68 victories at Iowa came in front of an announced 9,023 fans. “I think it’s safe to say when you look at the league, it’s as balanced as it’s ever been.

“You have to be ready every night, and to have that kind of atmosphere is clearly going to be very helpful.”

The Hawkeyes will play in front of 11 sellouts this season, the most since 16 sellouts in 2001-02. The previous six seasons had 11 sellouts, total.

Iowa’s average home attendance this season will be 14,975, the most since 15,207 in 2001-02.

There have been 20 sellouts during the McCaffery regime, one more than the previous eight seasons combined.

The Hawkeyes had their four worst attendance seasons ever at Carver-Hawkeye Arena from 2007-08 through 2010-11.

This season’s attendance ranks 14th all-time: Progress.

“When I came in we didn’t have as much support in the stands as we do now,” Marble said. “That just comes with winning. The Hawkeye fans have embraced us and really come in and supported us. And we just appreciate it.”

Now it’s up to the Hawkeyes to protect that home court, make a big step up in the Big Ten standings and send those fans home happy.

Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year and covers Hawkeye basketball for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.

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IOWA’S BIG TEN HOME SCHEDULE

Dec. 31: Beat Nebraska, 67-57

Jan. 9: Beat Northwestern, 93-67

Sunday: vs. Minnesota, Noon

Jan. 28: vs. Michigan State, 6 p.m.

Feb. 4: vs. Ohio State, 6 p.m.

Feb. 8: vs. Michigan, 1 p.m.

Feb. 22: vs. Wisconsin, 11 a.m.

March 1 or 2: vs. Purdue, TBA

March 8 or 9: vs. Illinois, TBA

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SELLING OUT CARVER-HAWKEYE ARENA

Iowa’s final seven home games are sold out, starting Sunday against Minnesota. Iowa’s 11 sellouts this season are the most since 16 in 2001-02.

Season — Home Att. — Sellouts — Home Big Ten att. — Sellouts

2013-14 – 14,975 — 11 — 15,247 — 8

2012-13 – 14,679 — 6 — 14,708 — 4

2011-12 – 11,908 — 2 — 13,254 — 2

2010-11 – 11,635 — 1 — 12,188 — 1

2009-10 – 9,550 — 0 — 10,489 — 0

2008-09 – 10,861 — 1 — 12,339 — 1

2007-08 – 10,761 — 1 — 12,989 — 1

2006-07 – 12,196 — 4 — 13,634 — 4

2005-06 – 12.006 — 5 — 14,234 — 5

2004-05 – 11,901 — 2 — 12,904 — 2

2003-04 – 12,977 — 2 — 13,986 — 2

2002-03 – 13,235 — 4 — 15,117 — 3

2001-02 – 15,207 — 16 — 15,500 — 8

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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