The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa men’s basketball Notebook | Hawkeyes reflect on players’ roles and skillsets heading into game against Arkansas State

Iowa looks to bounce back after 92-84 loss to No. 8 Creighton on Tuesday.
Sara Stumpff
Iowa forward Ben Krikke shoots the ball during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and North Dakota at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Hawks, 110-68.

The Iowa men’s basketball team looks to make progress against Arkansas State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday at 7 p.m.

The Hawkeyes got a glimpse of the team’s potential on Tuesday, despite suffering their first loss of the season in a 92-84 battle against No. 8 Creighton. 

Reflecting on the road contest, Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery still took lessons from the defeat, specifically in time of possession. At media availability on Thursday, the head coach maintained that no one on the team took a bad shot, but he reiterated taking longer possessions is a smarter decision in an away game. 

As for his thoughts on the Hawkeyes’ first-year players getting minutes against a top-10 opponent, McCaffery said the group is not one that panics but rather “stays the course.” 

The four Hawkeye first-years — guard Brock Harding and forwards Pryce Sandfort, Owen Freeman, and Ladji Dembele — combined for 18 points, four rebounds, and eight assists. 

“I am not surprised,” McCaffery said of the collective performance. “[I have] a lot of confidence in those guys, and they have a lot of confidence in themselves … Freshmen are going to contribute as we expect them to.” 

After that road test, Iowa is heading back to Iowa City to take on a 1-2 Arkansas State squad, just the second-ever meeting between the two teams. The Red Wolves topped the Hawkeyes, 66-62, nearly four decades ago in 1985.   

In the 2022-23 season, the Red Wolves finished with a 13-20 record – including a second-round exit against Troy in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Arkansas State ranked last in the conference in scoring, averaging 65.7 points per game while shooting 43.2 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from three. 

Following that conference tournament exit, head coach Mike Balado’s contract was bought out, ending his six-year tenure at the helm. Less than a week later, Arkansas State hired Bryan Hodgson, who headed to Jonesboro after spending the last four seasons as an assistant at Alabama. 

Hodgson has over 15 years of collegiate coaching experience, including six appearances in the last seven NCAA Tournaments. As an assistant in Tuscaloosa, Hodgson was a part of four top-15 recruiting classes, and over the offseason, the head coach brought in nine transfers to Arkansas State. 

The highlight of these newcomers is grad student forward LaQuill Hardnett, who shot 49.2 percent from the field, while also snagging a team-best 7.3 boards per game last season with Buffalo. 

With just two seniors on the roster, the Red Wolves return six players, including veteran guard Caleb Fields, who started all 33 games last season and competed for much of that time with a broken wrist. Hailing from Tennessee, Fields led the squad with 11.4 points and 4.6 assists per game. 

Anchoring the defensive end for Arkansas State is second-year Izaiyah Nelson, who blocked a team-best 44 shots over 17.5 minutes per game last season. 

Sandfort health 

In the second half against the Bluejays, Hawkeye forward Payton Sandfort took a hard fall, hitting his head against the court and leaving the game for a few minutes before returning to finish the contest. McCaffery said Sandfort was cleared by the medical team on the sidelines and will play Friday.

Key players in the post 

Grad forward Ben Krikke has stepped up in the statistical department throughout his first three games as a Hawkeye. The 6-foot-9, 245-pounder is averaging a team-high 18.3 points while notching 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game on 58.5 percent shooting. Krikke put up a game-high 24 points and five rebounds on 11-of-18 shooting in the loss against Creighton. 

McCaffery has been pleased with Krikke’s performance. The Valparaiso transfer was brought in to fill the void that forward Kris Murray left after he decided to go pro. Not only is Krikke filling the void, but he’s also proving to be everything McCaffery sought him out to be.

“It was a no-brainer,” the head coach said of recruiting Krikke. “For what we needed and what he brought to the table — his activity running the floor, moving without the ball, making plays for himself, making plays for other people, and relentless ability to — if he misses a couple, just get right back to it. Nothing lingers on him.” 

Freeman has never played in a two-big system before but enjoys the opportunity to learn from his game. 

“It’s always been like a four-out, one-in type of system, but I like playing with another big where we can play that high-low system,” Freeman said of sharing the court with Krikke. “Especially a skilled big like Ben, just being able to see the way he moves around the floor and his confidence. I’m just kind of building off him, and I really enjoy it.”

Earlier this week, Freeman was awarded Big Ten Freshman Of the Week. It was a humble moment for the 6-foot-10, 230-pound big man. 

“It just shows that the hard work and the confidence has been growing,” Freeman said. “It’s definitely a huge honor. I’m very blessed to receive it, and I want to get a lot more of those. So I just have to keep working on it and stay in the gym.”

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About the Contributors
Chris Meglio
Chris Meglio, Sports Reporter
Chris Meglio is a first year student at the University of Iowa studying a double major in sport studies and journalism. He will be working as a sports journalist for The Daily Iowan covering women's volleyball for the fall sports season.
Sara Stumpff
Sara Stumpff, Photojournalist
Sara is a third year UI student who transfered from Kirkwood. She is a "non traditional" student who will hopefully obtain her BFA in Photography and BA in Spanish.