Fran McCaffery wants Iowa Hawkeyes to soar like Eagles

Coach hopes for Iowa/Philadelphia weekend sweep

Penn State guard Tony Carr (10) tries to stop Iowa forward Tyler Cook (5) as he drives to the basket during Penn State’s 77-73 win at Iowa in Carver-Hawkeye Arena last Dec. 2. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Penn State guard Tony Carr (10) tries to stop Iowa forward Tyler Cook (5) as he drives to the basket during Penn State’s 77-73 win at Iowa in Carver-Hawkeye Arena last Dec. 2. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

"Eagles, no question."

That was Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery’s answer Friday when asked who would win Sunday’s Philadelphia-New England Super Bowl.

“I used to work for the Eagles back in high school,” the Philadelphia native said. “I was an usher. I just wanted to go to the games and didn’t have a lot of money. So I got paid $10 to show people to their seats and I got to watch the games.”

McCaffery will be back in Pennsylvania Saturday, but won’t be inclined to root for the home team. His Hawkeyes play Penn State (5 p.m., BTN) at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College. They want to do something they haven’t done this season, which is play well for a whole game on the road.

As good as it was Tuesday in its 94-80 win at home against Minnesota, McCaffery said Iowa (3-8 Big Ten, 12-12 overall) can’t say it’s turned a corner.

“I think you’ve got to go on the road and play a real good team, and play consistently well at both ends for 40 minutes.”

That hasn’t been Iowa’s calling card. It’s 1-4 on the road in the Big Ten. The losses were by 13, 18, 16 and 14 points. The win, against Illinois, came only after the Hawkeyes rallied from a 20-point deficit.

“When you’re junior/senior-led,” said McCaffery, “there’s a calmness about your team, especially on the road. That really helps you over the course of a long season.”


Iowa’s top four scorers are three sophomores and a freshman. Another soph, forward Cordell Pemsl, has scored in double-digits his last three games.

Penn State also is sophomore-dominated. The Nittany Lions (5-6, 15-9) get 14.9 or more points per game in league play from point guard Tony Carr, forward Lamar Stevens, and center Mike Watkins, all sophs. Watkins had 15 or more rebounds in four of his last nine games, and has blocked 63 shots this season.

“They’re aggressive,” McCaffery said about the Lions. “They get up into you. They can all guard.”

Penn State won at Ohio State on Jan. 25, the Buckeyes’ only Big Ten loss. The Lions fell 76-68 at fourth-ranked Michigan State Wednesday after leading by 12 points with 15:23 left.

Carr has averaged 24 points and 5.3 assists over his last three games. He had 16 and nine in Penn State’s 77-73 win at Iowa last Dec. 2. Sophomore counterpart Jordan Bohannon of Iowa has averaged 19 points and 9.3 assists in his last three contests.

Bohannon has two interesting streaks going. One is that he has made five or more 3-pointers in each of Iowa’s last five true road games.

“For some guys, the situation doesn’t change anything,” McCaffery said. “(Bohannon) says ‘I’m going to play the way I play,’ whether it’s home, road, a raucous crowd, difficult travel, a third game in five days ... it doesn’t matter to some guys.”

Bohannon’s other streak is 30 consecutive free throws, four behind the Iowa school-record of 34 set by Chris Street in the 1992-93 season.


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“From a technique standpoint,” McCaffery said, “there’s nothing you’d want to change. He has great balance, he has great follow-through, his elbows are under the ball.

“And he’s got tremendous confidence. He steps to the line and knows he’s going to make it.”

Just like McCaffery knows the Eagles will beat the Patriots Sunday. Or so he says.

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