IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa relished its execution during last week’s blowout win at Marquette. Since then, the Hawkeyes have come down from the high and focused on repeating the effort it took to achieve the desired result.
Iowa (3-0) doesn’t have time to relax with this week’s tournament in the Orlando area staring it in the face. It tips off the event on Thanksgiving against Dayton (3-0) from the Atlantic 10. The winner of that contest takes on the Notre Dame-Monmouth survivor with the losers also meeting on Friday.
The Flyers have ranked as one of the better mid-major programs in the country in recent years. They blew out Alabama, 80-48, already this season and won’t be intimidated by a Big Ten opponent but instead welcome the opportunity.
“When you’re playing on the road in that type of environment it’s important to get off to a good start,” Hawkeye Point Guard Mike Gesell said of Thursday’s 89-61 win at Marquette. “I think we were able to do that and then were able to carry that momentum throughout the game. At the same time, we can’t just hang our hats on that game. We’ve got to move on from it and continue to get better each day and take on Dayton next.”
Iowa heads to the HP Field House in Lake Buena Vista (FL) with a clear goal in mind. It wants the championship.
Two years ago, the Hawkeyes fell in overtime to Villanova in the Battle 4 Atlantis title contest in the Bahamas. Last November, they dropped games to Texas and Syracuse at the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
“Hopefully we’ve learned to win a title,” Iowa Senior Center Adam Woodbury said of the team’s experience in these exempt events early in the season. “We’ve come up short a few times in my career in championship games. Hopefully we’re fortunate enough to get to the championship and finally bring home a title.”
When Gesell and Woodbury were freshmen, Iowa fell to Wichita State in the championship game of the Cancun Challenge.
“You’re getting maximum exposure,” Hawkeye Coach Fran McCaffery said of the stacked holiday tournaments. “There’s a lot of teams in this who are going to be in the NCAA Tournament, so you’re playing against them. That’s why we go, for that opportunity.
“You can sit home if you want to or you can go play people. I think ultimately you get rewarded for doing that. If you look at the history of how the NCAA selection committee looks at your team, you will be rewarded for not being afraid to play people.”
In addition to the teams already mentioned in this event, Alabama, Xavier, Wichita State and USC will be competing for the title. The championship and place games will be contested on Sunday. Saturday is an off-day.
“You just have to be locked in every day,” Iowa Senior Guard Anthony Clemmons said. “Every day you have a different opponent so you can’t look ahead. You have to take care of business that day.”
After the Thanksgiving trip, the Hawkeyes return home to play host to Florida State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 2. It’s an important stretch for them in building their NCAA Tournament resume.
“We’ll know a lot more, but that sort of never stops,” McCaffery said. “You keep learning more and more about your team as the season progresses. You play three games in four days against that level of competition, certainly you’re going to find out some things.”
Here’s more from the players in these AllHawkeyes.com interviews: