To end the calendar year out in style, the Iowa Energy sent themselves out of 2011 with a pair of impressive home wins. The familiar foe, Sioux Falls, and the Idaho Stampede came into Wells Fargo Arena to try to knock off the leading team of the Eastern Conference. Instead, they were greeted with the returns of Moses Ehambe, Jarrid Famous and Marqus Blakely as they all returned from NBA training camps.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011 – Iowa 121, Sioux Falls 103
In the fourth match-up between the two teams so far this season, Iowa took advantage of being the aggressor in this game by going to the free throw line 40 times compared to the Skyforce’s 17 visits of the line on Tuesday. Marqus Blakely, who was playing his first game for the Energy since returning from last season, made it to the stripe 13 times on his own; he converted eight times. The foul ratio, which was in Iowa’s favor as well, was 29-19.
"We like to get points in the paint, and tonight, that’s what we wanted to do," Tveidt said.
Three Sioux Falls players also got to the 20-point mark as Casey Mitchell topped the Skyforce, and the game with 29 points. Mitchell shot 11-for-18 from the floor, including draining three 3-point baskets. The other two Skyforce players who got 20+ were Anthony Mason with 21 and Charles Garcia with 27.
In their last match-up, on December 10, it was Sioux Falls who got more visits to the line whereas Iowa got more chances to score in the paint.
Friday, December 30 – Iowa 108, Idaho 86
Nick Covington knows he didn’t play too well on Tuesday night although beating Sioux Falls. He admits that he has to play better and more consistently to make a positive impact to the Energy. Well, he came through in a 22 point win.
"The reason we like him is he can push the tempo," said Head Coach Kevin Young. "Nick was consistent tonight, and he played tremendous."
Covington’s biggest hindrance Tuesday night was turning the ball over too much while not finding his teammates. In this game, he had seven assists while turning the ball over three times. Oh, and he had points to deliver to his team as well. Through scoring his 20, he missed one shot. Covington, who has filled in for the injured Brandon Ewing the past few nights, went 8-for-9 from the field while also being perfect from deep – 4-for-4.
"We talked afterwards Tuesday night about him settling down and not turning the ball over," said Young. "He was kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with the turnovers, and we can’t have that from that position."
"I usually shoot well," he said. "I was just letting it go; I felt good tonight."
The funny thing is – he changed his routine beforehand.
"Before the last game, after I didn’t play well, I felt like coming out I wasn’t loose," Covington said. "I tried to make sure to focus more on preparing. I felt a lot more warmer, and the game came to me a lot easier."
He admits, however, that’s he not really the superstitious type of player.
"I’m a smart person," he said. "When something happens, I try to analyze what happened and what I can change and make those changes."
Covington wasn’t the only Energy player who contributed positively while stomping out the Stampede. Four other men made double-digit scoring on the night – Moses Ehambe (19), Marqus Blakely (15), Michael Tveidt (11) and Andrew Drevo (10).
Two players received double-digits in rebounds – Covington with 10 (all defensive) giving him a double-double, and Jarrid Famous with 11 – four offensive and seven defensive.
Although winning by 22, the Stampede rushed out to a 27-18 first quarter lead. The Energy weren’t worried however.
"Coach Young wires us to do what we’re supposed to do," Covington said.
Iowa went on to score 30 in each of the final three quarters.
"It’s tough when our roster has been a revolving door," said Young. "It can be a different guy any night, and tonight it was Nick."
Idaho has a couple of well-known names on their roster – one of them being former NBA standout Antoine Walker, who is best-known for being a Boston Celtic. He was not in the starting lineup due to arriving to Des Moines late. He did appear on the floor for 11 minutes; Walker had two rebounds and two steals.
"With his experience and size, he’s hard to guard," Young said. "It’s neat for the fans; he does a good job accepting his role. To be honest, I never thought I’d be coaching a D-League game with Antoine Walker as an opponent."
The other well-known figure is known for doing what he did as a cotllege kid. Eric Devendorf is a Syracuse kid who hit the game-tying shot (it was originally ruled a three which would have ended the game) to send them what later turned out to be a six overtime win against Connecticut on March 12, 2009.
In this game back to 2011, Devendorf put in 26 minutes off the bench while scoring a team-high 18 points as he was 7-of-13 from the floor.
The Energy will kick off 2012 by heading up to Sioux Falls this weekend to face the Skyforce; the Stampede will have a two-game series in Bakersfield Friday and Saturday.