IOWA CITY, Ia. – It’s not the building, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. It’s the elite athletes in the red and white uniforms that play inside it.
McCaffery’s Hawkeyes are coming off their most inspired road game of the season in an 83-69 win Saturday at Maryland. Next up is No. 22 Wisconsin at the Kohl Center at 8 p.m. Thursday (ESPN). It’s the last road game of the season, and the most challenging, for Iowa.
The Hawkeyes have lost 12 of their past 13 visits to Madison. Wisconsin leads the Big Ten Conference in home attendance at 17,286 per game, and has gone 14-1 at the Kohl Center this season.
“I don’t look at places as tough. I look at players and teams and coaches,” McCaffery told reporters Tuesday.
“I don’t get intimidated by places. I get intimidated at times by teams and what they’re able to accomplish. What I’ve got to be able to do is get those guys to understand that we’re going to play a certain way. That, OK we’ve got to deal with that? They’ve got to deal with us. OK, we do what we do, they do what they do, and that sort of eliminates any level of intimidation.”
The Badgers (22-7, 11-5 Big Ten) were the preseason pick to the win the league. But they’ve hit a rocky stretch late in the season, losing four of their past five games.
Iowa (16-13, 8-8), meanwhile, has been gaining confidence in road games all season, since double-digit losses at Notre Dame and Purdue. The Hawkeyes have won two of their past four away games and lost one other in double-overtime. In the two victories, Iowa has made 27-of-44 3-point shots.
McCaffery does have one victory at the Kohl Center, when his 2011 Hawkeyes got off to a hot start and held on to win 72-65. His senior guard, Peter Jok, however, has won at every Big Ten venue except the Kohl Center.
McCaffery said he expected a roster that includes six freshmen to get better on the road as the experience mounted. Jok’s counsel has helped.
“You have to have some failure and you have to have some success. You have to go through situations where you have to think for yourself and compete, and then you’ve got to work through situations where you have to do that with little help from the bench,” McCaffery said. “Because you’re on the road, it’s loud and you have to be connected on the floor. And I think our experienced guys have helped our young guys through that process.”