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Hawkeyes to face lowly Hoosiers

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


AP Sports Writer

DES MOINES, Iowa -- When Iowa coach Todd Lickliter was at Butler, then-assistant Brad Stevens brought the team a sign with a simple motto: "Excuses Equals No Results."

Lickliter says the Hawkeyes have tried to live by those words. The problem for Iowa is that a good attitude isn't always synonymous with a good season.

Iowa, losers of six of its last seven, travels to face lowly Indiana Wednesday in a battle between the Big Ten's two worst teams.

The Hawkeyes (12-10, 2-7) are ahead of only the Hoosiers (5-15, 0-8) in the conference standings, and Indiana is no doubt aware of the fact that Wednesday's game likely represents its best chance yet for a Big Ten win.

"We don't ever want to slip into excusing anything but our best effort," Lickliter said. "I've just been impressed with our approach. It's a demanding league. Look how good this league is. So, you know, it makes it all that much more satisfying if you can have some success. You're not going to do it -- there's no possibility -- unless you approach it the right way. This group has done a good job."

Iowa's play since early January has shown it needs to turn that positive approach into results if it wants to vault itself out of the Big Ten basement.

Since beating Indiana 65-60 on Jan. 3, Iowa has won just one game, an overtime thriller over a Wisconsin team that's unexpectedly struggled in league play as well.

The Hawkeyes have already lost three games in league play by at least 15 points, dropped another at Penn State when they lead by double-digits in the second half and fallen in close games with No. 19 Minnesota and at 23rd-ranked Illinois.

Iowa's losing skid has not been entirely unexpected given its youth and the loss of starters Cyrus Tate and Anthony Tucker, an emerging scorer who was ruled academically ineligible for the spring semester.

The Hawkeyes recently compiled statistics to illustrate how young they are. According to Stats, Inc., Iowa is the 21st-youngest team in Division I and ranks 43rd in minutes played by freshman at 35.8 percent.

The hallmarks of young teams are often inconsistency and an inability to close teams out. That was certainly the case at Penn State, and on Sunday the Hawkeyes let the Illini erase a halftime deficit by allowing then to shoot 9-of-10 from the field to start the second half.

"When you consider the consequences of not doing the little things, you realize there's no little things," Lickliter said.

Tate's high-ankle sprain has continued to drag on longer that Iowa had hoped, and his presence has been missed in the paint. Lickliter said Tate will try to practice Tuesday and his status will be evaluated after that session.

"He's still a little bit under the weather. It's not just an ankle," Lickliter said. "I think he'll be available. I've got my fingers crossed."

Besides taking a no excuses attitude, the Hawkeyes have also tried to forget about the past, win or lose, and approach the rest of its games with "tunnel vision."

But Lickliter acknowledges that the program's growing pains aren't always easy to take.

"I really like this group. I think their approach is correct," Lickliter said. "I think that most people understand that we're really trying to lay a foundation. There isn't anybody in this program that accepts losing, and at the same time, we've got to accept the reality. And so, we're just trying to make progress, prepare well, compete hard and make enough plays."

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