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One final tune-up

This news story was published on December 22, 2011.
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John Bohnenkamp, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa

IOWA CITY – Fran McCaffery didn’t give his Iowa basketball team much time to enjoy its 41-point win over Central Arkansas on Monday night.

McCaffery wanted the Hawkeyes to immediately forget the win and get ready for tonight’s game against Boise State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“It was a good win,” guard Matt Gatens said. “But Coach said we had to just flush it and move on.”

“To get their attention, I really needed to say that,” McCaffery said.

McCaffery wasn’t being a killjoy – he knew the Hawkeyes had played well. But the concern was getting ready for the Broncos, who bring a 9-3 record into tonight’s game.

With this being the last nonconference test before the Hawkeyes head into Big Ten play, McCaffery doesn’t want a misstep.

What Boise brings in is what we’ll see over the next 18 games,” McCaffery said. “We’ve done some good things in the last couple of games. Well, this is another test.”

McCaffery said he wanted that test.

“When you schedule games in the nonconference, you schedule certain teams you know you can beat, and certain teams that challenge you,” he said. “Boise State certainly falls into that (second) category. We knew we would get tested in this game.”

The Broncos have won six of their last eight games, and what concerns McCaffery the most is their depth.

“They have two of everything,” he said. “Those teams are hard to prepare for. That guy coming off the bench might be the one who hurts you more than a starter does. Those teams are hard to defend.”

The Hawkeyes’ defense has improved lately. They held Drake to 42.6 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers in last Saturday’s 82-68 win, then held Central Arkansas to 31.5 percent shooting – 18.6 percent in the second half – and forced 19 turnovers in Monday’s win.

If anything, Iowa (7-5) seems to have regained confidence after a stretch in which the Hawkeyes lost five of seven games.

The Hawkeyes have gotten key contributions from several players in the last two games.

* Freshman forward Aaron White has had 27 points and 10 rebounds.

“The thing with him is, he’s done a lot of things well,” McCaffery said. “You’re seeing a guy with a lot of talent who is fitting in with what we want him to do.”

* Junior forward Eric May had 10 points in Monday’s win, only his second double-digit scoring game in the last month.

“His consistency of effort is always a key for us,” McCaffery said.

* Senior point guard Bryce Cartwright, who has been battling injuries all season, had eight assists against just three turnovers in Monday’s win.

“I thought he was really good,” McCaffery said. “He wasn’t right for a lot of the season. When he’s banged up, he’s not the same.”

McCaffery is hoping for a difficult game, because he knows there are more difficult games ahead. All of the Hawkeyes’ games have been decided by double digits this season, and the team hasn’t fared well when faced with adversity.

“We need to figure out how to win,” he said. “We need to figure out how to overcome stretches when we aren’t playing well, and when the other team is playing well.

“We’re certainly closer to where we should be as a team. But we need to keep improving.”

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