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The Iowa senior guard talks about a lack of energy and takes blame for loss at Northwestern

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EVANSTON, Ill. — There was one brief sequence Sunday when the Iowa basketball team looked animated and ready to compete with Northwestern.

It was just after Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery removed all five starters at the outset of the second half. And it didn't last long.

The Wildcats diced Iowa's starters up and wore down its reserves in an 89-54 romp at Welsh-Ryan Arena. It was an uninspired performance reminiscent of the early season for the Hawkeyes and left them 0-4 on the road.

“We knew why,” Iowa forward Tyler Cook said of the mass benching. “They came out with more energy and more focus than we did in the second half and any other coach probably would have done the same thing. It’s an obvious call.”

The Hawkeyes (11-8, 3-3 Big Ten Conference) trailed 52-34 at that point, with 16:48 still to play and a Welsh-Ryan crowd of 7,732 buzzing.

Iowa’s second unit went on a 13-4 run to cut the deficit to 56-47 on a Nicholas Baer 3-pointer. But the energy soon faded and it was the last time the Hawkeyes trailed by single digits again.

Northwestern (15-4, 4-2) soon was back to dunking and draining 3-pointers to turn the game into a laugher and hand Iowa its largest margin of defeat this season. The Wildcats outscored Iowa 42-18 in the paint while making 11 of 24 3-pointers.

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Hawkeye coach also speaks about a rough outing for Peter Jok.

Guards Scottie Lindsey (22 points) and Bryant McIntosh (20 points, 10 assists) did the bulk of the damage. But every Wildcat got in on the action. Northwestern had 29 assists on its 37 baskets and outrebounded Iowa 39-24.

McCaffery was asked about a second unit that briefly brought some life to his lineup.

“Very little,” was his response.

Northwestern scored the game’s first eight points to prompt a McCaffery timeout just 2:38 into the contest. Things rarely got better for the Hawkeyes, who fell behind by 16 points and trailed 44-32 at halftime.

Star guard Peter Jok, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, had his poorest showing of the season with four points on 2 of 9 shooting. He played only six minutes in the second half.

“They were up close, tight on him. They were really paying attention to him,” McCaffery said of Northwestern’s defense on Jok. “And then in the second half, we took him out, his back was bothering him and then it got to a point where I wasn’t going to put him back in.”

Jok was coming off a 29-point outing in Iowa’s biggest win of the season, an 83-78 home victory over No. 19 Purdue on Thursday. He put the blame for Sunday’s sluggish followup squarely on himself.

“I’ve not been feeling good the last few days. I don’t know what it is,” he said. “(My back) was bothering me a little bit, but it wasn’t like to where I couldn’t play. It’s a long season, everybody gets banged up. There’s no excuse there. That’s not an excuse why I didn’t play well (Sunday).”

No Hawkeye was able to stem the second-half onslaught by Northwestern, which shot 18 of 27 after intermission. The Hawkeyes were 8 of 27.

“They fed off my energy,” Jok said of his teammates, “which I didn’t have any. And it just went downhill. I’ve just got to be a better leader from here on out and no matter what’s going on with my physical body. I’ve just got to toughen up.”

Iowa was led by Cook and freshman reserve Ryan Kriener, each with 14 points. Kriener scored his on 6-for-7 shooting and established a career-high point total. No other Hawkeye had more than six points.

Junior forward Dom Uhl did not play, his right thumb taped heavily after he injured it on a dunk attempt Thursday.

What was the biggest problem for Iowa?

McCaffery put it bluntly.

“I would say this,” he offered. “Pretty much everything.”

Iowa next hosts Maryland on Thursday.

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