IOWA CITY, Iowa – After playing its last three games in the state of Florida, the Iowa men’s basketball team returns home on Wednesday to face an explosive team from Florida.
The Hawkeyes (4-2) will play Florida State (4-1) for only the third time and for the first time since 2002 in Tallahassee, Fla. The game will start at approximately 8:20 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and is part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
It also is a reunion of sorts for Iowa freshman guard Andrew Fleming and Florida State’s leading scorer Dwayne Bacon. They played together last season at prestigious Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.
“He’s a really good player, a really good scorer,” Fleming said of the 6-foot-7 Bacon, who is averaging 20.6 points per game. “He’s got a killer instinct. Me and him went at it a lot last year in high school. We learned a lot from each other. We played every day against each other, always played against each other. But we’re real close. We’re family.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Monday that he didn’t watch Bacon play very much in high school because Fleming already had committed to Iowa by the time he transferred to Oak Hill for his senior season.
“But I’ve watched him a lot the last couple of days, he’s talented,” McCaffery said of Bacon. “You watch him, and you say, well, he’s a driver. Well, he can really shoot, and he’s a forward. Well, no, he’s a guard.
“He’s pretty special, I think. He’s got the full complement of skills in his arsenal with a great frame to play the game.”
As for his team, which lost two of three games at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, Fla., McCaffery is trying to mix youth with experience. Fleming is one of five true freshman on the Iowa roster, while four starters, including three seniors, returned from last season’s team that finished third in the Big Ten.
“You want to get some of those guys in there to get experience and bring them along to try to win the game,” McCaffery said of his younger players. “And we do have four seniors and five really experienced players, and that’s who you’re going to play. That’s who I’m going to play. There’s not that many minutes left this year for a lot of guys.”
The 6-5 Fleming only played a combined six minutes in the Advocare Invitational. He played one minute in the 82-77 loss to Dayton in the first round and five minutes in the 68-62 loss to Notre Dame in the second game, but didn’t see any action in the 81-64 victory over Wichita State in the third game.
“Me and coach have talked and I’m still learning,” Fleming said. “We’ve got guys right now that are playing well. And I know, at the end of the day it’s about this team winning.”
Iowa has had eight different players score in double figures this season. Senior forward Jarrod Uthoff has scored in double figures in all six games and was named to the all-tournament team at the Advocare Invitational where Iowa played three games in four days.
“We have a toughness about our team that we’re not going to quit and fold,” Iowa senior center Adam Woodbury said when asked what he learned about his team from the Advocare Invitational. “We got down a couple times by 10 and 15 (points) and we never gave up. We kept coming and we’re just going to try and rectify that on Wednesday.”
McCaffery said he expects Florida State, which is averaging 91.4 points per game, to push the pace on Wednesday. Iowa also like to play at a frenetic pace.
“Yeah, they’re fast,” McCaffery said of Florida State. “They’ve got speed. They attack, kind of that attack mentality. It will be more up and down, similar to the Dayton game.”
Leonard Hamilton is in his 14th season as the Florida State head coach and his 28th season overall as a head coach. He is Florida State’s all-time winningest coach and has earned three national coach of the year awards.
Hamilton also has excelled as a recruiter with Bacon one of his latest gems.
“I think he has a tough time picking his spots,” Fleming said of Bacon. “I think there a times when he goes when he shouldn’t. But I know he’s going to come in here and he’s going to play aggressive. So I just think we will key on him and we’ll stick to our game plan as a team. And think overall, it’ll be successful.”
Bacon is hardly a solo act, though. Another freshman, 6-5 guard Malik Beasley is averaging 20.0 points per game.
McCaffery said shot selection will be crucial against Florida State’s athleticism.
“A bad shot is often the same as a turnover,” said McCaffery, who has a 100-77 record as the Iowa head coach. “If you turn it over, that’s a problem against Florida State. If you take a bad shot, it’s a problem.
“It’s any team that plays that way with those kinds of athletes. So you’ve got to take care of the ball and take good shots. Then get your guards back and get everybody else to sprint and keep fresh bodies out there.”
Iowa has won its last two games in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, while Florida State has lost seven in a row in the event.