IOWA CITY — The Big Ten saddled Iowa with five ranked opponents among the Hawkeyes’ first six league games. With a young team coupled with a new coach, it was hardly unexpected that the Hawkeyes would finish that string 0-6.
On paper, Iowa (7-11, 0-6 Big Ten) receives a reprieve from the schedule the next three games. Indiana comes to town today, then Iowa travels to Penn State and Michigan. None of the three are ranked and all have losing records in the Big Ten. But there’s also a danger for Iowa to step on the court and expect the wins follow.
“I think we’re going to practice hard the next couple of days pretty hard to avoid something like that,” Iowa junior Matt Gatens said Friday. “We know Indiana is a great opponent, and they’re in our league. We’ve played them before real tough. We know what they’re all about. They’re definitely an opponent that we respect.”
The Hoosiers (10-9, 1-5 Big Ten) still are recovering from a disastrous 2007-08 campaign where Coach Kelvin Sampson was fired and all but two players (who combined for 1.6 points per game) left the program for the 2008-09 season. Indiana won just one Big Ten game in 2008-09 and lost both games against Iowa last year. Iowa’s 58-43 win at Indiana is the Hawkeyes’ only road Big Ten win the last three seasons.
There’s much at stake for both programs, which are trying to return to their status as a traditional power. Gatens said he doesn’t want to call today’s game a must-win situation “but it’s one we definitely need.”
“We’re in need of a win after the little slide we’re on right now, this slump,” Gatens said.
Guard on tap?
Iowa point guard Cully Payne’s likely season-ending injury has shifted Iowa’s recruiting efforts toward adding another guard for next year, Coach Fran McCaffery said.
Payne, a sophomore, has missed all but five games after having surgery to repair a sports hernia and torn oblique muscle. It’s likely he will red-shirt.
“We are looking hard at guards,” McCaffery said. “We have two (scholarships) left. And you know, you never know. You’re going to take the best available. We’ll ultimately take the best available regardless of position, but in a perfect world you take a guard and a big.”
Today, Iowa will recognize former player and coach Sharm Scheuerman, who died last summer. The team will sport an “SS” patch on their uniforms. Scheuerman’s widow and 23 of his former teammates and players will attend the game and participate in a halftime ceremony dedicated to Scheuerman.
The Big Ten announced Iowa will host Michigan on at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 19. The game previously was scheduled for either Feb. 19 or Feb. 20. Iowa’s game at Illinois has not been set. It’s either Feb. 26 or Feb. 27.