IOWA CITY — Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery spent part of this week on the road scouting prospects for his team’s future.
McCaffery had no concerns about the whereabouts of his current group of players. If they weren’t studying for semester finals, they were in the practice gym.
“The one thing we have are motivated players,” McCaffery said. “I went recruiting a couple of days and to a man, they were in here working on their own.
“When I’m away and I know I’ve got a gym full of guys getting after it, that tells me what I need to know about the motivation and the character on our team.”
The No. 25 Hawkeyes (10-2) enter their non-conference finale Sunday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-8) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena with something to prove. Iowa had to live with a bitter 85-82 loss at No. 13 Iowa State on Dec. 13. The Hawkeyes led by five points with 1 minute, 26 seconds but the Cyclones finished the game on an 8-0 run.
Iowa’s final possessions were marred by missed free throws (1-of-5 overall), a foul, a turnover and a missed wide-open 3-pointer. But there also were positives. Iowa dictated the game’s tempo at rowdy Hilton Coliseum and stopped nearly every ISU run with an opportune basket.
It took time for the players to move past the loss, but now they’re able to digest the good along with the bad. Point guard Mike Gesell missed three free throws late, including two with 12 seconds left and Iowa trailing 83-82. He absorbed the defeat but since has moved past the loss.
“We showed a lot of heart, a lot of good things,” Gesell said. “We went through a lot of adversity throughout that game. We responded a lot. It shows how much better we are than last year, I think. We were able to withstand a few runs. We just weren’t able to pull it out in the end.
“We showed a lot of positive things in that game. We saw that in the film. We also saw some things we can work on. We’re just going to continue to improve and get better from that game.”
With nearly a week removed from the Iowa State loss, McCaffery has chosen to evaluate the game on its complete picture rather than its finale.
“I think you have to do that in every game, as hard as that is,” McCaffery said, “because you’re disappointed after a difficult loss, you’re kind of euphoric after a big win. But let’s say we would have won that game. Let’s say Mike (Gesell) would made both free throws, they miss (a shot), we win by one and we’re jumping on top of each other and that stuff. It doesn’t change what happened over the previous 40 minutes.“There were some really good things that we did. We made some mistakes. We can’t foul — and Adam Woodbury was spectacular — we can’t foul with 1:29 left up five. We can’t do it. We can’t get a rebound with 48 seconds to go with a lead and turn it over. So you learn from those mistakes.”