Iowa Seniors Relaxed, Confident Heading Into Matchup With Tennessee

By Scott Dochterman, Reporter and Scott Saville, Sports Director

DAYTON, Ohio — Iowa's senior basketball players spoke to the media, exited the stage to the right, walked behind a dark blue curtain and immediately burst into laughter.

For them, it's a welcome and almost uncharacteristic public release. After three weeks of monotone reactions, no doubt fueled by late-season excruciating losses to Big Ten rivals, Iowa players say they're relaxed and focused. Their reactions seem to back it up.

But facing Tennessee (21-12) in a first-round NCAA Tournament game Wednesday (8 p.m. truTV) hardly is a joke, and they know it. The Volunteers are a grinding squad, much like Iowa's Big Ten brethren from East Lansing and West Lafayette. Tennessee out-rebounded its last nine opponents and ranked third nationally in rebounding margin at plus-8.5. Tennessee boasts powerful forwards Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon, each of whom weigh 260 pounds. Both are pictured on the team media guide with sledgehammers in hand, reinforcing the tough guy image.

The Volunteers persevered when fans challenged the team after an overtime loss to Texas A&M. Tennessee responded by winning five of their last six, and the only loss was to top-ranked Florida.

Physically and mentally tough. That sounds like the anti-Iowa of the last month. But instead of offering soft praise of his opponent, Iowa's Melsahn Basabe dropped the gauntlet.

"Obviously (Stokes) is a very talented player," Basabe said. "But like I said, the Big Ten has been pretty good my four years here, so I've seen everything from (Jared) Sullinger to Draymond Green and Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson and all those guys. So I'm used to competing against high-level big men."



Read more: http://thegazette.com/2014/03/18/iowa-shows-some-life-entering-ncaa-tourney/
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