By John Bohnenkamp
The schedule changes that come with playing a college basketball season during the COVID-19 pandemic have reached Iowa, and it shows with the slate of games the Hawkeyes have to play this week.
Tuesday’s 6 p.m. game at home against Michigan State is a rescheduled game from the Jan. 14 postponement because of the COVID-19 issues with the Spartans. It’s the beginning of a three-game, six-day stretch for the Hawkeyes, who went eight days between a home loss to Indiana and a road loss to Illinois.
Now they’ll take that losing streak into the game against the Spartans, Thursday’s home game against Ohio State and Sunday’s road game against Indiana.
“Playing Indiana and Illinois eight days apart, that was a little tough just waiting, waiting, waiting for the game,” center Luka Garza said Monday. “So we’re excited for this stretch.”
Iowa slid a bit in the Big Ten standings with the two losses. The Hawkeyes (12-4 overall, 6-3 Big Ten) are in a three-way tie for fourth place with Purdue and Wisconsin, two games back of first-place Michigan, which has been on a two-week pause because of COVID-19 issues on the Ann Arbor campus. The Wolverines aren’t scheduled to be back until Feb. 11, which means any loss Iowa has over the next six days just keeps the Hawkeyes sliding in the standings.
“We know this is a huge stretch for our team,” Garza said. “We know we need to be focused, locked in, and take care of our bodies, make sure we’re healthy going forward.”
The cramped schedule means a quick turnaround for preparations during the week.
“We’ll just prepare for Michigan State and we’ll move on to the next game,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Even though it’s a short turnaround, we won’t change anything there.”
The previously scheduled matchup against the Spartans was postponed one day before it was to be played, so the Hawkeyes did have some scouting preparation done. Michigan State forward Gabe Brown hasn’t played in the two games since the Spartans returned after testing positive for COVID-19. Iowa guard CJ Fredrick missed Friday’s game and is questionable with a leg injury.
“I think it’s fairly similar,” McCaffery said of the scouting report. “Both teams have qualities that won’t change, not only from week-to-week but year-to-year, focusing on personnel. They have most of their guys ready to go. Brown didn’t play in the last game, so don’t know what his status will be. CJ didn’t play in the last game. But other than that, it’s the same guys. Same coach. Same philosophy. So it won’t change that much.”
Iowa’s schedule will have to make room for the Jan. 24 game against Nebraska that was postponed, so the Hawkeyes may have to deal with another busy week coming up.
That’s fine with Garza.
“I love that. I’d play every day, if I could,” he said. “So I’m excited that we get to play a lot of games in a row.
“Every basketball player loves to play. So when you have a stretch like this, a couple of games in a row, it’s a lot of fun. It’s more fun to play than be sitting on the couch watching other teams play. So we’re really excited.”
Iowa’s Monika Czinano is back in a familiar spot.
Czinano, who was second in the nation in field-goal percentage last season, leads in that category this season. Czinano is shooting .701 from the field after a big week that earned her the Big Ten’s player of the week honor on Monday.
Czinano averaged 28.5 points, eight rebounds, and shot 28-of-33 (.848) from the field in Thursday’s home loss to Northwestern and Sunday’s win at Minnesota.
Czinano made 15 consecutive shots to open the game against Northwestern. She finished 17-of-19 from the field in the 87-80 loss, scoring 34 points. She was 11-of-14, finishing with 23 points, in Sunday’s 94-68 victory at Minnesota.
LEATHERNECKS BREAK THROUGH
Western Illinois coach Rob Jeter was doused with water in the locker room after the Leathernecks’ 99-87 win at North Dakota on Saturday.
It was the first Summit League win for Jeter, in his first season as the Leathernecks’ coach, and it snapped an eight-game losing streak.
“We’ve been taking some on the chin, trying to figure out a way to get something done, to build a little momentum and then keep it,” Jeter said after Saturday’s game. “Tonight we played 40 minutes for the first time in league play. They showed a lot of toughness.”
The Leathernecks could have swept the weekend. They led by 18 points with 12 1/2 minutes to play before falling, 83-81.
“These guys have been knocked down,” Jeter said. “Last night was a punch in the gut. We felt like we let it slip away. We had to find a way for everyone to keep willing a victory, will it together, and tonight we showed a lot of culture, toughness, togetherness, and discipline.”
Photo: Iowa’s Joe Wieskamp drives to the basket in Friday’s game at Illinois. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)