COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tyler Cook could smile Saturday because Iowa won Friday.
The Hawkeyes’ junior power forward and leading scorer at 14.6 points per game suffered through a frustrating and sometimes comical shooting performance in his NCAA Tournament debut.
Nine times, he took aim at the basket. Eight times, the ball rimmed away, including one first-half sequence in which a pair of layups caromed out of the cylinder in a manner that seemed to defy physics.
Iowa beat Cincinnati 79-72 despite only five points from Cook. That’s why he was talking to reporters Saturday as the Hawkeyes prepared for a second-round game against Tennessee at 11:10 a.m. Sunday at Nationwide Arena.
The season’s still alive. Cook’s spirits are still high.
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“I got layups. I just missed,” Cook said. “I got every single shot that I could have asked to get. They just rolled out every single time. So it was frustrating. But I could hardly be mad at it. I got to where I wanted to get to and (Sunday) I’ve got to make layups. I’m confident in my ability to bounce back from it. I’d be more upset if I wasn’t able to get good looks.”
The Hawkeyes practiced first and then met with the media Saturday. Cook was ready.
“I made a lot of layups (Saturday) in practice,” he said with a laugh. “So I think I’ll be ready. All of them went in.”
Cook, who was limited to 20 minutes because of foul trouble against Cincinnati, did admit he had a little more motivation Sunday to show a national TV audience the kind of player he truly is.
“I’m definitely itching to get back there on the court and hopefully make my first layup, so that will kind of get me going,” he said.
Why even lay the ball up? A reporter asked this of Cook, who is a ferocious dunker.
“We’ll go with that,” he agreed. “I’ll dunk the first one.”
Connor McCaffery still congested, but feeling better and will play Sunday
The Hawkeyes didn’t have a strenuous 90-minute practice Saturday, not with a single day off between their 34th and 35th games of the season. It was mainly half-court drills and reviewing some of their plays.
And that was fine with backup point guard Connor McCaffery, who has been battling a virus since Thursday and could provide only 11 minutes of play Friday.
“I feel better than I did (Friday),” McCaffery said Saturday, his voice still obviously congested.
He is taking medicine but did not require an IV on Saturday, as he did Friday. It was the fluids from the IV that gave McCaffery the energy to play in the game against Cincinnati after he was too ill to go through pregame warmups.
He said he’s prepared to use an IV again Sunday if needed. But he will play again.
One more thing, McCaffery confirmed as he sat among teammates in the Iowa locker room.
“I don’t think I’m contagious,” he said with a laugh.