CU men’s basketball preview: Iowa
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (8-3) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-6).
GAME TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. MST, Sanford Pentagon, Sioux Falls, S.D.
BROADCAST: TV — Big Ten Network; Radio — 850 AM.
COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 8th season (157-98, 213-164); Iowa — Fran McCaffery, 8th season (144-107, 395-284).
LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: G McKinley Wright, Fr., 16.6 ppg; Rebounding: G/F George King, Sr., 8.6 rpg; Assists: Wright, 4.5 apg. Iowa — Scoring: F Tyler Cook, So., 13.8 ppg; Rebounding: F Luka Garza, Fr., 6.8 rpg; Assists: G Jordan Bohannon, So., 4.8 apg.
NOTES: Iowa has won three consecutive games and in the past two has played with its full cast of players for the first time this season after a rash of early injuries…The Buffs and Iowa have played just seven times, with the Hawkeyes leading the series 4-3. The most recent meeting was an Iowa win in Boulder on Dec. 28, 1995…This is the Buffs’ final nonconference game. They open the Pac-12 schedule Dec. 29 at Oregon State…CU freshman Tyler Bey has grabbed nine rebounds in each of the past two games…The Buffs have gone 58-for-71 (.817) at the free throw line over the past three games…The Hawkeyes are 1-1 against common opponents of CU, defeating Drake but losing to South Dakota State.
George King wasn’t sure what to expect the last time he set foot on the Sanford Pentagon floor.
On Friday night, the University of Colorado men’s basketball team returns to the venue in Sioux Falls, S.D., where they began the 2015-16 season 25 months ago. It wasn’t the result the Buffaloes wanted, dropping a six-point decision against No.7-ranked Iowa State, but the contest proved to be a strong statement game for King.
Coming off a redshirt season, King stepped on to the floor at the Sanford Pentagon as a third-year sophomore and showed immediately his time on the sideline was well-spent. King hopes a similar personal performance can lead to a better team result on Friday night against Iowa.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a lot of fun,” King said. “It was a high-level game against Iowa State. They said it was a neutral court, but it wasn’t. It was like a road game and we lost a close one. I’m looking forward to going out there again. It’s one of my favorite courts, actually.”
King came off the bench two years ago against Iowa State and played 27 minutes, the second-most on the team. He knocked down four 3-pointers before finishing with 14 points and six rebounds to jump-start a season that ended with King winning the Pac-12 Conference’s Most Improved Player award.
King likely will return to the starting lineup Friday night after Tad Boyle opted to give the rotation a major overhaul in last week’s double-overtime win against South Dakota State. His senior season so far has been a mixed bag. King is averaging a career-best (and team-leading) 8.6 rebounds per game, yet after entering the season with a .405 career 3-point percentage, the second-best mark in team history, King has shot just .378 (17-for-45) from long range through the first 11 games. King recently endured an 0-for-11 slump on 3-pointers before finishing the South Dakota State by making four in a row.
On the other hand, King is shooting a career-best .478 overall, a testament to the increased workload Boyle is tasking his 6-foot-6 senior with in the paint.
“This game is going to test us to see if we’ve grown up and see if we’ve matured,” King said. “This game is going to test us to see what kind of team we really, really have on the road.”
Like that Iowa State game two years ago, Friday’s contest will be a neutral-court game in name only. Beyond the 25 to 30 family members of freshman guard McKinley Wright planning to make the trip from the Minneapolis area, the crowd is expected to be more akin to an Iowa home game.
While the Buffs acquitted themselves well away from home at the Paradise Jam, winning three games in three days on a neutral floor in a sparsely-populated gym, CU has struggled in both its true road games, losing at Colorado State and Xavier. After the Iowa game and following a brief hiatus for Christmas, the Buffs will play four of their six Pac-12 Conference games on the road. Reversing those road fortunes against the Hawkeyes would clear a significant hurdle for the youthful Buffs.
“They’re the deepest team we’ve played, and they’re probably the longest and most athletic team we’ve played,” Boyle said. “Their record doesn’t look great but relative to where they were three weeks ago, they’re playing really well. They’ve scored over 90 points a game in all their wins, so obviously they’re potent offensively.
“They are young, so they can be suspect to inconsistencies. Certainly they’re not unbeatable, but they’re playing very well right now.”