IOWA CITY — The Iowa basketball team has had nearly a week off to rest up and hopefully gear up for a big run through the final five games of the regular season.
But Fran McCaffery said none of that time — at least until Thursday — was spent studying the Illinois team that the Hawkeyes host Saturday or any of the other teams they face the rest of the way.
“The bye allowed us to give some of the guys who have been banged up a couple of days off so they could recover and then work on ourselves,’’ McCaffery said Thursday. “I think that's important.’’
McCaffery said the Hawkeyes have worked on almost everything since their 77-66 loss at Michigan State last Saturday.
But his players said one aspect of the game has been an especially big point of emphasis.
“After that loss at Michigan State, it was critical for us to work on our rebounding, especially on the defensive boards and just get back to some of the fundamentals we had at the beginning of the season that just sort of fell by the wayside,’’ sophomore Nicholas Baer said.
The Hawkeyes (14-12 overall, 6-7 Big Ten) have been outrebounded in each of the past four games and it was an especially big factor at Michigan State. The Spartans had a 46-32 advantage on the boards.
“We’ve been beat on the glass by pretty much everyone during the Big Ten conference season and that’s been a focus this past week …’’ freshman Cordell Pemsl said. “A key point for us Saturday is going to be rebounding so we did a lot of that.’’
McCaffery also said following the Michigan State game that he might consider changing his rotation. He has consistently used 11 different players in almost every league game and wondered if it might be beneficial to reduce that number.
He said he’s spent a lot of time contemplating that idea, but implied Thursday that he’ll probably continue as he has been.
“There's always going to be a sense of fairness with me,’’ he said. “It's not going to be ‘OK, well, I need to shorten the bench so you two guys aren't playing.’ If they deserve to play, then they need to play, and that might mean that others don't play as much … But I'll still probably lean towards playing guys that deserve to play.
“I'm having a hard time not playing Dale Jones and Maishe Dailey, to be honest with you,’’ he added, pointing to the only two scholarship players who have not been part of the rotation.
Whoever plays, the Iowa players said they know they have work to do in the last five games if they’re going to make the NCAA Tournament or any other tournament.
“We know that to get our postseason aspirations, we’ve got to get wins on the road,’’ Baer said. “And take care of things at home … There’s five games left and we’ve got to make a run.’’