IOWA CITY, Iowa — Melsahn Basabe isn’t overlooking anything.
Penn State might be 0-11 in the Big Ten and might have played only one conference foe to closer than a nine-point game, but the Iowa forward knows there is danger in taking the Nittany Lions for granted.
“They are like their coach. They come to play,” Basabe said. “They play like they have something to prove.”
Second-year Penn State coach Patrick Chambers is regarded as a fierce competitor, an attitude his team is working to adopt as it prepares for today’s 8 p.m. home game against the Hawkeyes.
Basabe understands Chambers as much as anybody on the Iowa roster.
While working as the coach at Boston University, he attempted to recruit Basabe.
“He’s a good guy who likes to win, a good coach. He likes to compete,” Basabe said. “He will have his team ready. There is no doubt about that.”
Basabe said the Nittany Lions were one of the more difficult matchups Iowa has had this season, in part because of the team’s overall size and in part because of its aggressive mindset.
“They’ve been one of the harder teams to play in college since I’ve been here, even though they don’t have the best record or the public perception being of a talented team,” Basabe said. “You’ve got to respect those guys, and we’re on the road.”
For Basabe, the game is as close to a homecoming as the Glen Cove, N.Y., native will get.
“I’ve had people bugging me for tickets to since Christmas,” Basabe said. “I want to go out there and do well. I will have a lot of family there. It is a good chance for them to see me play.”
That hasn’t been an issue since Basabe returned to the lineup for the first time in more than a year when Iowa defeated Penn State 76-67 in January.
In his four starts since, he has averaged 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Hawkeyes.
“Things haven’t changed for me. I’m still trying to get the most I can out of every minute,” Basabe said.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said that will be needed, although he doesn’t believe his players will look beyond the task at hand when the Hawkeyes attempt to win for the first time at the Bryce Jordan Center since 2006.
“I don’t see how they could, based on how Penn State played us at our place,” McCaffery said. “They fought us right to the very end, and it was a tough, tough game.”
McCaffery said he has enough tape of the Nittany Lions making plays against the Hawkeyes to remind his team of how challenging things were in Iowa’s earlier win.
“They are right there. They battle offensively. They battle on the glass. They run good offense,” McCaffery said. “They’ve got two guys (D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall) who can really score the ball. They’ve got some other guys that are really, really improving.”
Like Basabe, McCaffery also understands that Chambers will have his team ready.
In part, there is a realization that opportunities for victories are growing fewer. After tonight’s game with Iowa, Penn State has just two home games left with matchups remaining against Michigan and Wisconsin.
“We know that they are going to battle you as hard and as long as anybody in college basketball. That’s who (Chambers) is and I think that is what he is trying to do with that program,” McCaffery said.
“We haven’t won there, certainly since I’ve been here, so there are many factors that enter into this situation. Penn State has earned our full attention.”