Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa men's basketball needs home to be castle vs. Maryland

Road-weary Hawkeyes have 12th-ranked Terps coming their way in Carver Friday

Maryland forward Jalen Smith (left) falls near his team's bench while chasing a loose ball against Ohio State forward Ju
Maryland forward Jalen Smith (left) falls near his team's bench while chasing a loose ball against Ohio State forward Justin Ahrens during Maryland's 67-55 win over the Buckeyes Tuesday in College Park, Md. (Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

IOWA CITY — The Iowa men’s basketball team carved some nice notches in its belt between its Dec. 6 loss at Michigan and last Saturday as it climbed into the Top 25.

There was a 20-point home win over Minnesota, a 16-point victory at Iowa State, a 77-70 triumph over Cincinnati in Chicago.

Then the Big Ten season resumed, and the Hawkeyes quickly bid adieu to the rankings. The Hawkeyes fell 89-86 to Penn State in Philadelphia last Saturday, and were upset by Nebraska 76-70 in Lincoln Tuesday night. They sit at 1-3 in the conference, in need of something good to happen ASAP.

The best medicine for a reversal isn’t playing Maryland, 3-1 in the league and ranked 12th nationally.

The good news for Iowa: It plays the Terrapins in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Friday at 6 p.m. Home teams are 23-5 in Big Ten contests this season.

“I think you have a lot of good teams in this league and good teams oftentimes win at home,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Thursday. “But when you look at the rosters of who you’re playing against, they obviously have the capability of beating you at any time.”

It doesn’t help when your active roster has been whittled to eight scholarship players, assuming guard CJ Fredrick doesn’t return Friday. He has a stress reaction in his left foot, and sat out the second half of the Penn State game and all of the Nebraska affair.

“He’s still working through it,” McCaffery said. “It doesn’t look real good, but we’ll see.

“It’s an opportunity for somebody else. I think Bakari (Evelyn) has proved he can do it. (Ryan) Kriener has been terrific. Connor (McCaffery) can be versatile. Those guys then have to log more minutes, all of them, including Cordell (Pemsl), and then we’ve got to get (walk-on guard Austin) Ash ready. He was not available for duty the other night, but he was cleared yesterday.”

Maryland is arriving in apparent good health, led by senior guard Anthony Cowan and long, athletic 6-foot-10 sophomore forward Jalen Smith. It’s a guard-dominated team, putting more on the plate of Iowa freshman point guard Joe Toussaint, who played a career-high 34 minutes at Nebraska. He has 32 points and eight assists over the last two games.

“I think you can see a different level of aggression (from Toussaint),” backcourt mate Connor McCaffery said. “He makes stuff happen. He is in attack mode.

“I think he’s learning how not to go 100 miles an hour all the time. Because as fast as he is, he doesn’t really have to. He’s ridiculously quick, fast, he can do that whenever he wants. But being able to tell ‘Now I need to slow it down, I need to move the ball, now if I slow down here I can use this screen.’

“If he’s just going fast all the time it might get scouted, he might get out of control. Him just learning that balance is going to be big, and he’s already doing it.”

Maryland is 10-0 at home, 0-2 on the road. The Hawkeyes have traveled over 8,500 miles since Nov. 28. Friday night, they are home. It’s an advantage they need to put to use or they’ll be in 13th place in their conference at the end of the evening.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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