The Iowa Hawkeyes begin what will likely be the key stretch of their season as they host Wisconsin. The Hawks are 5-4 in the Big Ten and have four of their next five games at home.Iowa coach Steve Alford says they’re in a position for an exciting finish if they play well in the last five games. Alford’s team has yet to win back-to-back conference games this season. He says they need badly to break that pattern against Wisconsin.With so few players on the bench the starters have been playing nearly the entire game. Alford says that will not change. Alford says they players know they’re going to be on the floor alot. He says they’re not going five-on-five hardly at all in practice to stay sharp so they can play well on Wednesday and Saturday. Wisconsin is coming off a loss at Northwestern.Badger coach Bo Ryan says they’ve played hard in the last two games and ended up with a split. He says the reason for the loss at Northwestern was simple — the ball didn’t go in. He says when that happens you don’t look good. Ryan says it wasn’t like the team wasn’t trying hard.Drake is on the road to take on a Southern Illinois team that has a good chance to finish the regular season Missouri Valley Conference race unbeaten. The Salukis won the first matchup with the Bulldogs in Des Moines back in December.Drake coach Tom Davis says he was impressed with them after that first game and he’s even more impressed now as they’ve gotten better. Several Drake players have missed some time as of late because of injuries and Davis says it takes some time to get back into the flow of the game. He says it sets them back because they don’t have the deep depth where guys can just step in.It has been quite a season for the Salukis who entered the nation’s top 25 this week.First-year coach Matt Painter who says the national ranking is a big plus after being picked fifth in the league three months ago. Painter says the attention of the ranking will help them recruit.Their rivalry dates back to the days of the Mid-Continent Conference but it has been one sided in recent years. UNI hosts Southwest Missouri State tonight, looking to snap a 13-game losing skid in the series. Panther coach Greg McDermott says they haven’t beaten them “since the Stone Ages.” McDermott says the games have ranged from beatings to close loses. He says Southwest Missouri State has a number of weapons, and defend very well.SMS coach Barry Hinson says his team has been outplayed by the Panthers in their last few meetings. He says Northern Iowa has had their number especially at when they’ve hosted the Panthers, and he says they’ve had to do everything they can to get out with a win.Hinson says it will take a big effort from his team to extend the winning streak.
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