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The Iowa coach concedes the defense could have been better but the Hawkeyes won anyway, 90-76. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Adam Woodbury’s role on this Iowa basketball team is more prominent than it’s ever been, but it’s also still in the often-unnoticed category.

Thursday, there was no missing the 7-foot-1 center’s impact in the ninth-ranked Hawkeyes' 90-76 road win over Rutgers.

When Woodbury headed to the bench with his second foul 6 minutes, 50 seconds into the game, Iowa’s 15-7 lead vanished. Rutgers even grabbed the lead a few times in the first half.

Coach Fran McCaffery didn’t use Woodbury the rest of the first half, but he played him 15 minutes in the second.

“He was great, wasn’t he?” McCaffery said. “Considering he was in foul trouble and didn’t play as much, his defense in the middle of the zone in the second half was spectacular.”

McCaffery said switching to a zone “saved us” on a night when Iowa’s offense had to be really good to outscore the Scarlet Knights, who shot 48 percent. Woodbury had a hand in that, too, registering his fifth career double-double (and third this season), with 12 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. He was 6-for-6 from the foul line, upping his season percentage to 81.6.

“I made a couple mistakes in that first half that I can’t really make,” Woodbury said. “Fortunately, it worked out for us that we got the win. I was just trying to play more free and not worry about foul trouble.”

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Iowa had a fight on its hands for a while but pulled away vs. Rutgers. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com

Big Ten country?

The announced crowd at the Rutgers Athletic Center was 4,209 – and a lot of those in attendance were East Coast-transplanted Hawkeye fans in the team’s first appearance here since Rutgers joined the Big Ten Conference.

Northern New Jersey still doesn’t quite feel like Big Ten country.

“No, not at all,” Iowa guard Peter Jok said. “It was weird, I’ve never been to New Jersey before.”

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The weekly award winner responded with a career-high 29 points vs. Rutgers. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com

Iowa players were hesitant to admit they came out flat, but certainly it wasn’t their finest performance – allowing the most points since an 83-82 loss at No. 4 Iowa State on Dec. 10.

“Whether there’s nobody in the stands or it’s packed, you’ve got to get up,” Woodbury said. “The other team doesn’t care.”

Dom Uhl, who played at nearby Point Pleasant, N.J., had several friends and host family members here. He scored three points in 14 minutes, ending a three-game streak of scoring 10 points.

Speaking of the bench

Thursday brought another eye-opening stretch from Ahmad Wagner.

The true freshman forward scored six points on some impressive power moves to the basket in his 10 minutes Thursday. After Rutgers stormed back from a quick 8-0 deficit to tie it at 24-24, Wagner went to the hoop and scored.

“We were slow at times, offensively and defensively,” Wagner said. “I just tried to come in an bring as much energy as possible.”

Wagner had scored his first Big Ten bucket in Sunday’s 82-71 win over Michigan. He keeps gaining confidence, and Iowa needed him on a Thursday night that saw walk-on sensation Nicholas Baer go scoreless in 11 minutes.

The 1,000 Club

Jarrod Uthoff’s 20 points Thursday made him the 44th Hawkeye to reach 1,000 points for his career. He now has 1,011 in just 2 ½ years of college ball.

Not surprisingly, the team-oriented Uthoff had no idea he achieved that mark until he looked at his text messages after the game.

He also delivered a funny response to a reporter asking about the milestone.

"It doesn't mean anything to me,” he said, adding with a laugh, “I hope that helps your quotes."

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Iowa's star forward thought the Scarlet Knights played well. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com

Parting shot

The last thing Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan wrote on his white board before his team played Iowa on Thursday? “Pride.”

Despite the 14-point loss, Jordan found positives in the Scarlet Knights’ effort three days after losing 107-57 at home to Purdue.

“We played with a lot of pride. I’m proud of this team,” Jordan said. “I’m glad that we had the performance we had, not (considering) what the score was.

“What’s important is that you learn from every game.”

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