IOWA CITY — Iowa reached sell-out status four days before the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten opener against No. 5 Indiana on Monday.
Iowa sold out the arena twice last year: once was against Ohio State and the other was the regular-season finale against Northwestern. The Hawkeyes’ previous two sellouts were against border rival Illinois on Dec. 29, 2010 and March 1, 2008.
Iowa averaged a program-worst 9,550 fans a game in 2009-2010, the year before Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery’s arrival. Iowa has averaged 12,471 fans a game this season.
“I hoped to get to the point where our fans wanted to come back and identified with this team and got behind this team and appreciate how hard they have worked,” McCaffery said. “They recognize our opponent and their history and the fact that they are ranked fifth. And they want to see great basketball.”
“I’m excited and happy for the program,” Iowa junior Devyn Marble said. “It’s been a minute since we’ve actually are competing and expecting to win. We’ve got to take that as a positive and grow.”
ESPN2 will air the game 3 p.m. game. Iowa’s players are excited for the festive atmosphere as well as the Big Ten season.
“This place is going to be packed for Indiana, and we know it’s going to be packed at Michigan,” Iowa sophomore forward Aaron White said. “It’s so much fun in the Big Ten because of the challenge, night in and night out.”
Iowa healthy for Big Ten opener
Iowa junior forward Melsahn Basabe suffered a sprained ankle just five minutes into the Hawkeyes’ 80-50 win against Coppin State on Dec. 22. McCaffery said Basabe will play Monday.
“He’s good,” McCaffery said. “He’s practiced hard the last two days and generally no signs of any problem.”
After his news conference Friday, McCaffery was in street clothes and hitting the road to recruit. He did the same thing on Dec. 1 when he left a postgame interview session and within an hour sat in a Champaign, Ill., gymnasium watching a potential prospect.
In 2014, Iowa will have three scholarships open with Basabe, Marble and Zach McCabe exhausting their eligibility.
“I think you typically target what you lose,” McCaffery said. “We’ll look for a wing guy who can play the point and some post guys, so we’ve got to get some forwards, preferably a versatile guy.
“But, you know, you go in and say, ‘OK, that’s what we are looking for, but not necessarily what we are going to write.’ If you have an opportunity to get somebody who is a great player at a position, you’re going to try to get them anyway.”
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