There is still a path to a Big Ten title for the Iowa men's basketball team.
This despite the eighth-ranked Hawkeyes (20-7, 11-4 Big Ten) having lost three out of their last four games, including two straight with defeats to Penn State and Wisconsin. With three games remaining, however — Ohio State (18-11, 10-6) on Sunday, Indiana (23-6, 13-3) on Tuesday and Michigan (20-9, 10-6) March 5 — there is an opportunity to either tie or overtake first-place Indiana and Maryland (23-5, 11-4). The Terrapins are currently tied for the second spot with Iowa.
So, the beat marches on for coach Fran McCaffery's club.
"I try to be objective," McCaffery said in a teleconference Friday. "We played a team that was playing well, they made shots at crunch time. For the most part, I thought we competed. I’m looking for, what I consider, major, major breakdowns and major, major problems. And I haven’t seen that."
The big picture isn't lost on the Hawkeyes. Though that message isn't necessarily prescribed by McCaffery given the veteran presence on the roster, notably with four seniors and a junior in the starting lineup.
For now, the sole mission is on Sunday's contest with the Buckeyes.
"What do we need to do to beat Ohio State? What do we have to do to be better than we were in the previous game? Sometimes, that gets lost when you lose," McCaffery said. "I thought we were better in the Wisconsin game than we were in the Penn State game. That’s a good thing, You can’t lose sight of that even though we lost the game.
"We have to be better in the next one."
Uthoff remains No. 1 target for opposing teams
Not surprisingly, opponents are trying to neutralize Jarrod Uthoff. The senior forward ranks second in the conference in scoring average at 18.6 points per game.
In Iowa's game against Penn State Feb.17, Uthoff shot 5-for-14 from the field but still managed 19 points in 33 minutes of play. Then, with foul trouble looming, Uthoff produced 11 points on 3-for-12 shooting in 23 minutes earlier this week against the Badgers.
"I don’t think they’re defending him any differently," McCaffery said. "It’s pretty obvious from the opening game this year that he was going to be a primary target. They’ve paid close attention to him. It’s not like they’re doubling him. They’re getting up into him, which is what’s happened for three years."
'No lingering effects' for Jok
Junior Peter Jok played in Wednesday's game and paced the Hawkeyes with 21 points in 29 minutes. But about 72 hours earlier, Jok's body temperature read 101.5 degrees. He went to the doctor Sunday but recovered well enough to be available for the opening tip three days later.
The junior guard ranks seventh in the conference in scoring average at 16.5 points per game.
"Monday he didn’t practice, he looked awful," McCaffery said. "Tuesday he looked a lot better, practiced a little bit. He looked pretty darn good on Wednesday, except I do think as the game went on he kind of wore out. He still got 21.
"He looked fine (Thursday). He doesn’t seem to have any lingering effects."