No. 20 Iowa faces Alabama State off hot start

Both teams enter the game on winning streaks with the Hawkeyes (4-0) making an appearance in the Top 25 at No. 20. Alabama State (2-2) has won two straight.

The Hornets opened their season losing to Iowa State 79-53 and now they get to complete a trip into the Hawkeye State.

The meeting on Wednesday will be the third all-time between the two schools, with Iowa winning both of the previous contests --last season 92-58 and in 2001 by a score of 73-64.

Iowa is in the middle of a stretch of playing six of seven games against major conference opponents (Nov. 15-Dec. 6). Wednesday's game against the Hornets is the only game during the three-week stretch not against a major conference opponent.

Beating then-No. 13 Oregon and Connecticut to win the 2K Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden lifted the Hawkeyes into the Top 25 this week.

But Iowa coach Fran McCaffery knows there's much more work ahead of his team.

"Obviously we made a big step. I felt we competed. I felt we really were locked into the game plan. I said that to the guys afterwards. To beat teams of that caliber on that stage, you've got to be locked in as a unit, and we were."

Alabama State, picked to finish fifth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, is led by Reginald Gee, who averages 16.5 points per game. Jacoby Ross pumps in 15.3 points per game for the Hornets, who have won their two games by an average of 39 points per game.

"We like to sprint to our spots and try to get it to the rim in a hurry as a regular part of the offense," said Hornets coach Lewis Jackson.

Branden Johnson might be the Hornets' best all-around player. A preseason SWAC selection, Johnson is averaging 8.3 points and 8.5 boards per game.

In a 42-point win against Birmingham-Southern Johnson had 11 points and 13 boards, but Jackson expects even more from his 6-foot-8-inch center.

"We started off slow but recuperated in the second half and Branden did a good job," Jackson said, adding that Johnson has to get in better shape.

The Hornets will need him to protect the rim against the sizable Hawkeyes' frontline.

AJ Farrar came off the bench and recorded his first double-double for the Hornets.

"AJ is a tough kid and hopefully this will give him confidence," Jackson said.

Alabama State's defense held Birmingham to just 14 of 57 from the field, made 10 steals and caused 21 turnovers. That fast and athletic defense will be tested by Iowa, which is averaging 84.5 points a game.

The Hawkeyes have plenty of scoring options. In two games last weekend at Madison Square Garden in New York, the Hawkeyes compiled 168 points.

Tyler Cook leads Iowa at 16.0 points per game and is averaging 8.0 rebounds per game. Luke Garza patrols the paint, averaging 14.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Jordan Bohannon is the engineer that makes the offense hum. He's averaging 12 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.

One player, who contributed on defense and rebounding, but wasn't able to showcase his offense was freshman forward Joe Wieskamp, who scored a total of five points over the weekend after knocking down 25 points in his first two games.

"We've got a lot of scoring options. Obviously, I didn't have a lot of scoring opportunities out there. I know my time will come," said Wieskamp, who was 1-for-8 from the field in New York. "I'm still trying to figure out my role. ... It's early in the season. I'll figure it out."

The Hawkeyes have a veteran team, which should allow Wieskamp, the all-time leading scorer in Iowa high school's largest class, to grow naturally without pressure. The veterans have been there before.

One of those veterans, Garza, has a warning for the Hornets.

"(Wieskamp) didn't shoot great last weekend, but he's been shooting well all season. We have all the confidence in him," Garza told the Iowa City Press Citizen.

"I guarantee you, Alabama State, he's going to destroy."

Jackson welcomes the challenge.

Iowa is a great team and should tell us how we measure up against another very good team.

"It doesn't get easier for us. As long as we continue to try to get better and be there for each other. ... Go Hornets," he said.

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