AMES — Iowa sophomore Melsahn Basabe was soft-spoken and candid after Friday’s 86-76 loss to Iowa State when assessing his progress this season.
Basabe is trying to peel back the 25 pounds he gained in an effort to bulk up during the off-season. The extra weight made him sluggish, and it’s cost the 5-5 Hawkeyes — and Basabe — on the court so far this year.
“I just see that’s the one thing that’s holding me back right now is my conditioning,” said Basabe, a member of the Big Ten’s all-freshman team last year. “It’s been improving the last three games and over the last three weeks it definitely has.”
Basabe’s numbers have improved and his efforts have helped the Hawkeyes even in defeat. He went through a four-game stretch where he totaled only eight points. In his last three games he’s scored 14, 8 and 18 points, respectively. But that’s not enough for him or his team.
“I’m still not where I want to be,” Basabe said. “I still want to improve my conditioning to be more effective as a defensive player because I wasn’t effective defensively (Friday). I know that myself. I know when the film comes there’s going to be a lot of me on there. That’s my conditioning and the way it’s shaping. It’s affecting my play on both ends of the floor.”
Basabe now averages 8.5 points and a team-high 5.3 rebounds a game. But Basabe’s defense is the key for his improvement, Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. Along with his 18 points Friday, Basabe grabbed nine rebounds in 32 minutes.
“He’s got to block some shots for us,” McCaffery said. “That’s what I told him. I said, ‘18 and nine on the road, a step in the right direction. You’re playing against high-level competition.’ Fought, I thought, but didn’t present the defensive presence that I know he can be. Last year against this team (Iowa State) he had eight blocks. He had none (Friday).”
Basabe vows to use the next week to improve his conditioning. McCaffery hopes the seven-day break between games helps the team improve its health. Point guard Bryce Cartwright played only six minutes and did not start because of a lingering hamstring issue. McCaffery said he took out Cartwright because he couldn’t change direction.
Post Devon Archie did not play and injured his wrist two weeks ago. McCaffery said guards Eric May, Devyn Marble and center Gabe Olaseni also are banged up.
“We’re no different than anybody else,” McCaffery said. “You start playing every other day seemingly. You don’t take any practices off, you go into Thanksgiving break and you keep going. They need time to rest their bodies. They need time to get ready for finals.”
Iowa’s next game is next Saturday against Drake, the final game of the instate series this year. The Hawkeyes are 0-2 within the state and never have lost to Iowa State, Northern Iowa and Drake in the same season.