The Iowa guard scored 20 points, topping his previous best by 6, in a 90-76 win over Rutgers. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Before the season, the least-ballyhooed of Iowa’s four senior basketball players made a bold prediction.
“I know what I’m going to do this year,” Anthony Clemmons said in October. “It’s going to be a big statement.”
The guard is making good on his promise, as evidenced by one of his best games in a Hawkeye uniform in Thursday night’s 90-76 win at Rutgers.
The ninth-ranked Hawkeyes got sluggish after taking a 13-2 lead over the Big Ten Conference’s worst team. But Clemmons was there to bail them out, time and time again.
After Rutgers cut it to 17-16, Clemmons drove for a layup
After it was tied 26-all, he buried a 3-pointer from the corner.
After it was tied 32-all, he canned a jump shot.
“He was attacking,” teammate Jarrod Uthoff said. “He was doing everything right on the offensive end.”
When the night was done, Clemmons had scored a career-high 20 points and dished out five assists without a turnover while senior backcourt mate Mike Gesell went scoreless while battling a leg injury. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Friday that Gesell would be "fine" for Sunday's Noon CT game against No. 22 Purdue (Big Ten Network).
Clemmons’ previous high in 121 games had been 14 points twice — as a freshman against Iowa State and as a junior against Northern Illinois.
"He's playing with great confidence, no question about it," McCaffery said. "His decision making on when to shoot, when to drive, when to move it on is just about perfect right now."
It was a nice moment for Clemmons, who has spent his four-year career at Iowa trying to find his role. He struggled as a sophomore, then experienced an uptick as a junior — averaging 4.8 points a game and shooting a team-high 37.3 percent from 3-point range while cementing his job as Iowa’s defensive stopper.
Thursday, though, showed he’s more than a role player for the Hawkeyes, who are 15-3 overall and 6-0 in the Big Ten Conference. He’s confident in his ability to score, happy to let Uthoff (18.7 points a game) and Peter Jok (14.9) get their shots.
“Whenever the opportunity’s given to me — it just depends on the right situation,” Clemmons said. “If they need me to score 20, I can go for 20. If they don’t, I don’t have to — I can get my teammates involved.”
His numbers are way up this year, 8.5 points and 3.8 assists a game. He’s been playing the last four games with an ailing right hip, which he said isn’t yet 100 percent.
“I wouldn’t say all the way back,” Clemmons said. “I’m still getting treatment, getting a lot of massages.”
Reminded of his personal preseason prediction, Clemmons grinned.
“I just had a lot of confidence in myself,” Clemmons said. “I had a good junior year. So I just wanted to go the right direction.”