Iowa men's basketball stomps Alabama State to get to 2-0 on the season

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa was officially playing Alabama State in Sunday's men's basketball game.

But the real competition for the Hawkeyes was between the starting five and the second unit to see who could put up more points.

Iowa drubbed the Hornets, 92-58, to get to 2-0 on the season.

In the other battle, it was: Second five players 45, starters 43.

Not that the players were keeping score. Freshman forward Jack Nunge, who came off the bench to score six points, said he was unaware that his fivesome had edged the starters in scoring.

"That's a pretty cool stat," Nunge said.

The benefit of playing weaker teams like Alabama State is that it allows Iowa coach Fran McCaffery to get a long look at his reserve players. On Sunday, he substituted Brady Ellingson at point guard, Maishe Dailey at shooting guard, Nunge at small forward, and Cordell Pemsl and Ryan Kriener in the post.

That group was every bit as effective as the starters, contributing 18 rebounds and 13 assists to go along with the 45 points.

"That's normally who we practice with," Nunge said. "We have a good relationship in that aspect. We have good ball movement. We all have a pretty good connection. We're very active on the defensive end."

Alabama State guard Tobi Ewuosho (5) grabs a rebound over Iowa's Jack Nunge, left, and Jordan Bohannon, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Iowa City, Iowa.

And they enjoy measuring themselves against the starters, officially or unofficially. 

"In pretty much every practice, every drill, every segment, it's all about getting the win," Nunge said. "I think that's a good thing to have in the program, whether you're first group, second group. You just want to go out there and compete and give your best."

Their best was more than enough for the Hornets, who lost 96-68 at Mississippi State on Friday before making the long trip to Iowa City to absorb another drubbing. 

The Hawkeyes were having so much fun that junior forward Ahmad Wagner made his first career 3-pointer. Point guard Jordan Bohannon delivered a transition alley-oop pass that Isaiah Moss slammed home to get the crowd announced at 11,637 on its feet. Power forward Tyler Cook showed off his range by swishing a 15-foot baseline jumper.

Iowa could do whatever it wanted, and did.

Pemsl led the Hawkeyes with 15 points,and was one of 12 players to score. Freshman center Luka Garza had a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Bohannon had six assists for a second consecutive game.

Iowa guard Isaiah Moss (right) tries to steal the ball from Alabama State guard Gene Davis during the first half Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Moss and the Hawkeyes dominated the Hornets to move to 2-0 on the season.

McCaffery said he doesn't view his roster as a mixture of starters and reserves.

"I have the same expectations for them that I have for everybody else," he said of the guys coming off the bench. "Cordell looks at himself as a starting player, just doesn't start. Brady's been terrific. Maishe was great. Kriener is such a good passer; he is so physical. Then Jack, I put him in right away because he is so versatile."

The Hawkeyes went on an 18-0 run early in the first half to take control. Iowa led 47-22 at intermission, holding the Hornets to 29.4 percent shooting, blocking five shots and converting nine turnovers into 18 points.

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon (3) drives to the basket over Alabama State's Austin Rogers (11) and Marice Wright (21) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Iowa City, Iowa.

Iowa next hosts Grambling State at 7 p.m. Thursday.