By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – From one hostile road environment to another, that’s the current challenge facing the Iowa men’s basketball team heading into Thursday’s annual showdown against Iowa State.
The game will be played at Hilton Coliseum in Ames and just three days after Iowa fell to fourth-ranked Purdue 87-68 at Mackey Arena this past Monday in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Iowa State isn’t perceived to be at the same level as Purdue, but the Cyclones (6-2) are tough to beat at home where Hilton Magic is the phrase used to describe their long-standing homecourt advantage.
Iowa State is 4-0 inside Hilton Coliseum this season with its four wins coming by an average of 45.5 points, although, the some of opponents left something to be desired from a competitive standpoint.
Iowa (5-3) also has split the last two games played in Ames and has won four of the last five games in the series, and five of the last seven.
So, both teams have reason to be optimistic about their chances, but they’ve also been humbled recently.
While Iowa is coming off a game in which it trailed by 35 points in the second half, Iowa State has lost two of its last three games, falling to Virginia Tech and No. 12 Texas A&M in Kissimmee, Florida, at the ESPN Events Invitational before winning 99-80 at DePaul on Dec. 1 in a BIG EAST/ Big 12 matchup.
Iowa fell behind early against Purdue and its 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, trailed 45-24 at halftime and never recovered.
“There were a lot of things that we didn’t do well,” McCaffery said. “Our ball screen defense wasn’t great. You know, our post defense is obviously going to be complicated with (Edey), but we’ve got to rebound better.
“Our offense has to flow a little bit better, but it obviously helps you to get a few more stops.”
T.J. Otzelberger is in his third season as the Iowa State head coach and his teams are to playing defense what Fran McCaffery’s Iowa teams are to playing offense.
Thursday’s game will match two teams with vastly different playing styles and philosophies as the Cyclones feed off their defense under Otzelberger, while Iowa wants to run and score in transition under Fran McCaffery.
Iowa State was averaging 11.8 steals per game as of Tuesday, while Iowa entered the Purdue game averaging 90 points per contest.
The Cyclones have a talented backcourt led by Ames native Tamin Lipsey at point guard. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound sophomore is ranked 13th in the nation in assists per game (6.3) and tied for eighth in steals per game (3.0).
He also leads the Cyclones in points and rebounds per game with 15.1 and 6.5, respectively.
“I think he’s got a complete skill set,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Wednesday. “I think he’s got an aggressive mindset and he’s got a great feel. I think they use them taking full advantage of his talent.
“He’s made a concerted effort to affect the game at both ends of the floor, so you’ve got to give him credit for that.”
Lipsey also has a talented guard playing alongside him in UNLV transfer Keshon Gilbert, who averages 14.8 points, 3.6 assists and 2.0 steals.
“I think they’ve done a good job with transfers, and getting them to play together,” McCaffery said. “I think that’s been impressive. That’s not always easy to do.”
Both teams have four players averaging in double figures in scoring, and Iowa also has seven plays that average at least 5.3 points per game.
Graduate transfer forward Ben Krikke, who previously played for Valparaiso, leads Iowa in scoring with an 18.4 average and is shooting 60.4 percent from the field.
Owen Freeman, a 6-10 freshman forward, averages 9.8 points per game for Iowa and is shooting 60 percent from the field.
Freeman already has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times, tying Aaron White for the program record, and it’s still just early December.
Iowa relies heavily on the 3-point, but when the shots aren’t falling from behind the arc, the offense tends to unravel as was the case against Purdue.
Iowa has 10 players that have made at least one 3-point basket this season, led by junior forward Payton Sandfort with 18.
Seven of the 10 players in Iowa’s rotation, including Krikke and Freeman, will be playing for the first time at Hilton Coliseum.
The Iowa State game is sandwiched between two Big Ten games as Iowa will face Michigan on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa vs. Iowa State
When: Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Ames, Hilton Coliseum (14,267)
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network
All-time series: The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series against Iowa State, 48-28. Iowa has won four of the last five and five of the
last seven in the series. Iowa has split its last two meetings in Ames, winning 84-68 in 2019 and losing 73-53 in 2021. The 2019 victory
was Iowa’s first in Hilton since 2003 in the NIT.
Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery is 6-6 all-time against Iowa State. Last season’s 75-56 win in Carver was McCaffery’s 500th career victory