No. 19 Iowa gears up to face rival Iowa State
Iowa and Iowa State have met 69 times with the Hawkeyes owning a commanding 44-27 advantage in the Cy-Hawk series.
But the Cyclones have held the upper hand in recent years, winning four of the past five meetings with the Hawkeyes holding court in 2016 in Iowa City.
The two instate rivals meet again on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City with No. 19 Iowa on a two-game skid and Iowa State on the rise.
After starting the season 6-0 and rising to No. 14 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, the Hawkeyes (6-2, 0-2 Big Ten) have lost their first two conference games and been exposed in the paint. In losses to Michigan State and Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes were outscored 86-46 in the paint.
"We let them have too many looks on the inside. It's pretty plain to see," Iowa forward Tyler Cook told reporters after the Michigan State loss. "We've got to do a better job of trying to contain those inside guys, regardless of who's guarding them."
The Cyclones have the players who can do similar damage, but whether coach Steve Prohm's game plan includes two 6-foot-9 forwards in Michael Jacobson and Cam Lard and 6-foot-10 George Conditt remains to be seen.
Iowa State has gotten off to a 7-1 start and won four in a row relying on a four-guard rotation with Jacobson, a transfer from Nebraska. Jacobson has been better than advertised.
"He's been better from an offensive standpoint of stretching the defense, playing in pick-and-roll, shooting 15-to-17-foot shots -- those types of things," Prohm told the Des Moines Register. "He hasn't surprised me in character and toughness and energy, and being about the right things."
Jacobson is averaging 16.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
Lard, who played his first game Monday night after being suspended for the first seven games, brings a healthy inside game with 12.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots a season ago.
Bad news for the Hawkeyes.
Good news for the Hawkeyes is that Prohm said he will probably stick with four perimeter players -- Nick Weiler-Babb, Talen Horton-Tucker, Marial Shayok and Tyrese Haliburton -- with Jacobson.
"We don't have any tricks up our sleeve," Prohm told the Register. "What we feel comfortable with right now has been really good for us. As we get time and as guys get healthy and we get to total full strength and have real legit practice time, we'll grow into where we can play both ways."
For Prohm's strategy to work, freshman Horton-Tucker has to emerge from a mini-shooting slump (39 percent).
"I've been really impressed with their team. I think in particular their ball movement," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "They've got a lot of weapons, and they have some new guys. ... Jacobson has looked really good, Shayok has been terrific, Horton-Tucker, Weiler-Babb has always been really solid. He kind of goes and scores when he has to and then moves it, keeps everybody involved."
The Hawkeyes are a veteran-laden team and won't be surprised by much of anything, especially at home. Iowa returns 90.5 percent of minutes played a year ago, a percentage that is fourth most in the country.
Iowa ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring offense (80.8) and first in free-throw percentage (.761), free throw makes (197) and attempted (259).
Getting to the line is a big part of their game.
Freshman Joe Weiskamp also plays a huge role and the good news is that he is expected to start after injuring an ankle in the loss to Michigan State.
"It's getting better," McCaffery said Wednesday. "Better if there was a little more time.
"It's not broken, so that's good news," he added when asked if the ankle was sprained.
Cook (15.4) comes into the game leading three other Hawkeyes scoring in double digits. And despite taking a beating in the paint, Iowa still outrebounds its opponents by more than three boards per game.
Going on the road is always a challenge. For a rivalry game, there is added incentive.
"I don't like Iowa -- I don't think any of us like Iowa," Weiler-Babb said. "It's a rivalry. I don't think they like us."
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