It’s that time of year. College basketball teams lay off from the game floor for about a week as the student-athletes focus on final exams.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff was originally scheduled to play just once in 15 days, but the Oregon State game was moved from Dec. 7 to Dec. 13 when the ice storm that plagued the South didn’t allow the Golden Lions to travel very far. Having a smaller layoff didn’t seem to help the Lions, who after losing 77-63 at Oregon State, went to Creighton four days later and were pummeled 88-51.
“When you go in there, you play different competition,” UAPB coach George Ivory said. “They (Oregon State and Creighton) play different styles of basketball. We missed a lot of easy shots (at Creighton), and playing those types of teams, you can’t miss a lot of easy shots. Creighton had a good shooting night.
“It was one of those nights.”
Sunday, the Lions (2-8) try to avoid another “one of those” games when they face 25th-ranked Iowa (10-2). Tipoff in Iowa City is scheduled for 1:02 p.m.
It will be the Hawkeyes’ only game in an 18-day span, as they are coming off an 85-82 loss to Iowa State on Dec. 13 and won’t play again until hosting Nebraska on New Year’s Eve.
“It is not always possible to lay a schedule out exactly where you want it,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery told hawkeyesports.com. “You do the best you can.
“Unless we’re in a Christmas tournament, I want the players to have a couple of days with their families away from basketball because inevitably what comes after is the Big Ten schedule.”
Since the loss to Creighton, Ivory said the Lions have been working on blocking out, keeping the opponents out of the paint and controlling the basketball. Creighton manhandled UAPB in the paint, outscoring the Lions 32-18 and outrebounding them 40-24. The Bluejays also had a 24-4 advantage off turnovers.
One of the worst scoring teams in the country at 60.4 points per game, UAPB will face an Iowa team that averages 88.9, more than 12 points better than what the Lions allow per game. Junior forward Aaron White (13.7 points, 6.6 rebounds per game) shoots 66.7 percent from the floor and is coming off a 17-rebound game against Iowa State, the most by a Hawkeye since 2006. Senior guard Roy Devyn Marble leads the Hawkeyes with 15.9 points per game.
“We have to play a real good basketball game to beat Iowa,” Ivory said. “We have to be sound in every area.”
But even after the embarrassing loss at Creighton and eight straight losses, Ivory — who’s never won more than two games in nonconference play as head coach — doesn’t seem apologetic for the tests his Lions have endured.
“I’m proud of what the guys have accomplished so far,” Ivory said. “We’re getting on the road, everybody’s getting to know everybody, and we’re getting a chance to grow.
“One thing about tough competition, you find little things you need to work on.”