The Iowa coach explains his decision to not shake hands after Tuesday's win over North Dakota. Mark Emmert
IOWA CITY, Ia. – As if the first 39 minutes of Tuesday’s basketball weren’t ugly enough, things really took a turn in the final minute.
Iowa beat North Dakota 84-73 before an announced crowd of 11,099 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and then made a hasty exit to the locker room rather than stick around to shake hands and exchange niceties.
The Fighting Hawks (5-5), trailing by double-digits in the waning seconds, weren’t in a hurry to accept defeat. First, there was a deadball technical foul called on Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon after getting tangled up with a North Dakota player with 37 seconds left.
Fighting Hawks guard Quinton Hooker delivered a hard foul near halfcourt on Iowa’s Peter Jok rather than let the clock run out with 12 seconds remaining. Finally, North Dakota’s Corey Baldwin swatted the ball out of Nicholas Baer’s hands with 3 seconds left and a teammate tried to make one final basket, which arrived just after the buzzer.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery seethed all the while and stalked off the court, throwing his hands in the air in disgust. He instructed his players to follow, leaving North Dakota coach Brian Jones standing perplexed by the scorer’s table.
“The game's over,” McCaffery said. “We don't need Pete (Jok) getting knocked to the floor. We don't need guys getting up in Jordan's face. We don't need Nicholas's head getting chopped off.”
McCaffery said it wasn’t the first time he’s feared what would happen in a handshake line after a contentious basketball game.
“I wasn't pleased with how the game ended and the things that happened," he said. "I will say this: I have a lot of respect for Brian and certainly (North Dakota assistant coach) Jeff Horner. I don't think they teach that kind of stuff, but I was not having it. That's not the way to play.”
Brian Jones chalks up postgame hard feelings to "frustration."
Jones, a former Hawkeye assistant under Steve Alford, indicated there were no hard feelings and said he would address the situation with Baldwin.
“They’re not malicious kids, they’re good kids,” he said of his players. “They’re trying to compete until the final horn goes off.”
Noting that Horner was a star player for the Hawkeyes a decade ago, Jones said: “We want to come here and play well. We want our family and friends to be proud of what we’re doing and be respected. I get the heat of it. It’s just the heat of the moment. Coach (McCaffery) is a high-character guy, I’m not blaming that. There were some things down the stretch that both teams could have cleaned up.”
There was much to clean up for both teams. Iowa (7-5) won a fourth consecutive game but made it look much more difficult than it needed to. The Hawkeyes bolted to a 37-18 lead with 3:26 left in the first half but could never put North Dakota away.
Iowa had players get in foul trouble, made only 23-of-34 free throws and sank just 5-of-12 3-pointers. The Hawkeyes also allowed the Fighting Hawks to outscore them 38-30 in the paint.
The Hawkeyes survived by getting 18 points apiece from Bohannon and Jok. Brady Ellingson added 10 off the bench. And Cordell Pemsl, who was benched for being late to Tuesday morning’s shootaround, responded with nine points and 11 rebounds.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” Bohannon said. “They’re really chippy and physical, so we knew they were going to fight back every possession. We responded really well on the defensive end and got some stops.”
Jok was harassed into 4-of-15 shooting from the field, so he adjusted and made it a priority to draw fouls. He made all 10 of his free throws.
“They were super aggressive, especially with me. At that point, my shot wasn’t falling so I just wanted to attack and get to the free-throw line, because I know I can make those,” said Jok, a senior. “I would have kept shooting (in the past). This year, if the shots are not falling, you’ve got to find other ways to help the team.”
Pemsl was replaced in the starting lineup by Dom Uhl, but entered the game 4 minutes in and played 24 minutes. He was active on the glass, but was brutal at the free-throw line, where he made only 1-of-8. He owned up to his morning tardiness.
“I was in the wrong for being late to shootaround, but I just tried not to let that get to me. Obviously, I’m a freshman. I learned from that mistake and I’m not going to do it again, but I accepted the consequence,” said Pemsl, who will suffer no further punishment. “I just went out and played as hard as I could and did what I needed to do to help the team win.”
Bohannon led the Hawkeyes with 34 minutes of court time. The freshman added three rebounds, three assists and three turnovers to his 18 points. He seemed to be a favorite target of North Dakota players, but said his technical foul wasn’t warranted.
“We just got tangled up and I just threw my arm out unintentionally and kind of hit him,” Bohannon said. “It wasn’t deserved, no.”
But it did start a wild sequence to end a rather nondescript midweek non-conference game. Jones, an Iowa native, said he’d love to bring his Fighting Hawks back to Iowa City sometime.
If that rematch happens, it could be more of a cage match.
Iowa next hosts Delaware State at 8 p.m. Thursday in its final non-conference game.