Thursday, November 18, 2004
Iowa starts its season Friday night with a game at home against Western Illinois. The Leathernecks finished last in the Mid-Continent Conference with a 1-15 record last year, en route to a 3-25 season. Despite winning only one game in the conference and returning only five players from that team, their conference preseason poll has them improving to seventh in the nine-team league. Other publications pick them at either eighth or ninth.
WIU played two exhibition games, beating Saint Ambrose 107-66 and SIU-Edwardsville 71-64. They used their up-tempo style to force 25 turnovers in the first game and 22 against SIU-E.
Players to watch include Eulis Baez, Will Lewis, T.J. Gray, and David Jackson.
Baez is a 6'8" transfer from Florida International. He averaged 12.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game there as a junior. He managed to grab 14 rebounds, dish out 7 assists, and score 19 points in 27 minutes against Saint Ambrose.
Lewis is a senior who averaged 9.9 points and 4.7 rebounds last year. The 6'6" forward scored 17 and 21 points in the two exhibitions.
The 5'9" Gray was a member of the conference All-Freshmen Team a year ago after averaging 10.0 points a game and 3.1 assists. He is the Leathernecks' leading returning scorer.
Jackson, a freshman, averaged over 23 pts/game for his Memphis high school. The 6'4" guard was nominated to play in the McDonald's All-America game.
Western Illinois fits into the schedule in a good spot. The game should allow Iowa to get its opening game jitters out of the way against an easily beatable opponent. It will also give the Hawkeyes practice against a fast-paced team, which will hopefully help prepare them for the athletic and up-tempo attack of Louisville next week.