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Hawkeyes have good luck against top teams

John Bohnenkamp, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa –

IOWA CITY – In an up-and-down season, the Iowa basketball team has had most of its ups against some of the best teams in the nation.

The Hawkeyes have three wins over nationally-ranked teams, including last Sunday’s 78-66 home win over then-No. 18 Indiana.

“I do think we have a lot of confidence against those teams,” guard Matt Gatens said.

Another ranked team comes to Carver-Hawkeye Arena tonight, and it’s the team the Hawkeyes knocked off for their first win over a ranked opponent this season.

No. 16 Wisconsin comes in for today’s 8 p.m. game, but Badgers coach Bo Ryan said his team isn’t looking for a little payback after the Hawkeyes upset the Badgers back on New Year’s Eve in Madison.

“Revenge is not a word I use,” Ryan said. “I’ve been around too long too know that it doesn’t help you play better.”

The Hawkeyes seem to play better when there’s a big name in the house.

Besides the 72-65 win at Wisconsin, Iowa defeated Michigan by 16 points at home as well as Sunday’s win over the Hoosiers.

But all of those wins also lead to a few what-ifs for the Hawkeyes, who are 14-13 overall, 6-8 in Big Ten play.

“I think the thing that we have to figure out is, OK, if we’re capable of playing like this, why can’t we do it a little bit more often?” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “It may be nothing more than the other teams we’re playing are also pretty good.

“You say, OK, we beat Penn State here, why didn’t we beat them there? They played pretty well at home. When we blew an 11â point lead with 10 minutes to go against Nebraska, that would have been great one to get.”

This would be a good one for the Hawkeyes to get. The Badgers (20-7, 9-5) have won eight of the last 10 games, but have split their last four.

Jordan Taylor has been especially difficult for Iowa to deal with in the past. Taylor, who has averaged 14.5 points per game this season, has had big shots against the Hawkeyes in Carver-Hawkeye Arena during his career.

“He’s tough to defend,” said Iowa point guard Bryce Cartwright, who is questionable for tonight’s game as he recovers from a high ankle sprain.

“He has consistently been a really good player at the end of the game, and at the end of the shot clock,” McCaffery said. “You look at their wins, he’s making buckets late, free throws, baskets. He did it to us last year in an overtime loss. Obviously he’s a focal point of what we’re preparing for.”

But McCaffery is just as concerned with forward Ryan Evans, who has averaged 15 points and nine rebounds over the last three games.

“It sticks out to me that Evans has really raised his game, the level of his game,” McCaffery said. “Really been impressive to me as I watch recent film of their team. The rest of the guys are still doing what they’ve been doing. That’s why they’re always where they are. They’re phenomenally consistent in everything they do.”

Now the question is whether McCaffery can get consistency from his team. The ups have been fun, the downs haven’t.

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