IOWA CITY, Ia. — Jarrod Uthoff made good on his promise.
Uthoff scored 21 points, all in the first half, and the Iowa basketball team pulled away from Gardner-Webb, 76-59, in Friday night’s season opener before an announced crowd of 14,209 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Following an exhibition loss to Division II Augustana (S.D.) a week ago, Uthoff told head coach Fran McCaffery, “I’m going to get it corrected, and you’ll never have that problem again,” after a sluggish performance.
“You’ve just got to come out with an aggressive mindset,” Uthoff said Friday. “It’s the first game of the year that counts.”
The Iowa senior scored all 21 of his points in the first half.
Gardner-Webb, an athletic team that won 20 games a year ago (including at Purdue), gave the Hawkeyes all they could handle. The Runnin’ Bulldogs led 31-28 with 6 minutes left in the first half.
Uthoff came to the rescue, unveiling a full arsenal of scoring options. The smooth 6-foot-9 senior from Cedar Rapids Jefferson had six first-half field goals; Iowa’s other four starters combined for one.
Uthoff scored off a steal, off a tip-in, off his patented fadeaway jumper, from 3-point range and from the foul line (7-for-7). He scored the final seven points of the first half to give Iowa a 41-37 lead at the break.
“Just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Uthoff said. “They fouled me, and I got to the free-throw line. That definitely helped me a lot, getting to the line and getting some easy points.”
The Iowa center talks about a season-opening win over Gardner-Webb.
Out of halftime, the Hawkeyes looked like a different team. Peter Jok buried back-to-back 3-pointers and Mike Gesell’s steal-and-layup put Iowa up by 12. Jok was helped to the locker room a few minutes later after suffering an ankle injury; he returned to the Hawkeye bench wearing a boot on his right leg.
McCaffery said he wouldn’t categorize the injury as severe, adding: “I don’t think it’s going to keep him out for three weeks or anything like that.”
Iowa pulled away in the second half behind some unexpected bench players. Walk-on freshman Nicholas Baer, after not playing in the first half, popped in a pair of 3-pointers. Freshman forward Ahmad Wagner, the 12th Hawkeye that McCaffery put into the game, blocked a shot and scored off two putbacks to inflate Iowa’s lead to 69-51.
Adam Woodbury scored 11 points with six rebounds for the Hawkeyes, who return here at 4 p.m. Sunday to face Coppin State. Wagner finished with six points and a team-high eight rebounds (six offensive). Gesell scored two points, but delivered nine assists.
The freshman had six points and eight rebounds in 9 minutes.