The Iowa coach took a moment after Sunday's 81-70 win over Nebraska to commend Iowa students, who helped raise money for children's cancer charities via the UI Dance Marathon. Chad Leistikow / The Register
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Peter Jok did almost everything his teammates needed him to do Sunday in his return from a back injury.
The key: More passing, less shooting.
The Big Ten Conference’s leading scorer attempted a season-low seven shots and finished with 12 points in 30 minutes as the Hawkeyes handled visiting Nebraska, 81-70, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“Not trying to force anything. They were guarding me pretty tight,” Jok said. “I had two guys (on me) pretty much every time I drove. I was just trying to find other guys.”
That was especially evident during a key sequence down the stretch.
Nebraska was within 71-66 with just over 2 minutes left. As the shot clock wound down, Jok had the ball in his hands as he usually does.
But instead of thinking shot-first, Jok drove the lane and attracted an extra defender, then flipped the ball into the waiting hands of freshman Cordell Pemsl for an open layup and seven-point Hawkeye lead.
The Iowa senior had missed two games while resting his back. Chad Leistikow / The Register
That essentially closed out the Cornhuskers.
It was that kind of an afternoon of Jok: A guy that normally does big things (he had eight 25-point games before the injury), doing the little things.
Despite shooting 2-for-7 and being held without a 3-pointer for just the third time this season, Jok finished with five rebounds and five assists. He was 8-for-8 on free throws and played solid defense, too.
“I feel like he was great. I am so proud of him,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “… He had a couple looks. I'm sure he's frustrated they didn't go in. But I thought his shot selection was really terrific, really efficient.
“When he's out there and teams pay the attention to him that they pay, it opens things up for … everybody else on our team.”
Jok was playing for the first time in 11 days. He was shelved for two games — both Iowa wins, in which ball movement was fantastic.
In his return, he was intent on not messing up that recent chemistry.
After a clunky start, the Hawkeyes (14-10, 6-5 Big Ten) got it figured out and finished with 22 assists (on 27 baskets) and 11 turnovers.
“I knew I wasn’t going to make the regular shots I usually make, because I’ve been out a week,” Jok said. “I was going to let the game come to me and get my teammates open shots.”
How will Jok’s back respond to a quicker turnaround? The Hawkeyes have just two days off before Wednesday’s 8 p.m. contest at Minnesota. Then they play against Saturday at Michigan State before a week off.
The senior sounds confident, saying his back feels better than it had before the trainer-imposed rest.
“Once I get back into a rhythm,” he said, “I’m going to be more aggressive.”