Iowa takeaways: On Cook sitting with two fouls, Bohannon's leadership test, Garza's health
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The first time Iowa forward Tyler Cook went to the bench Thursday, his team was trailing by three points and he had just been called for his first foul.
Cook sat for 2 minutes, 7 seconds and Purdue’s lead doubled in the middle of a 15-5 run that was the beginning of the end for the No. 21 Hawkeyes.
By the time Cook picked up his second foul, with 2:49 left in the first half, the Boilermakers led by 14 points, well on their way to an 86-70 victory at Mackey Arena.
Again, coach Fran McCaffery sat Cook down, hoping to get to intermission within striking range without his junior leader. Purdue scored the final six points of the half to take a 52-35 lead.
“I just did not want him to get three (fouls),” McCaffery said later. “I felt like, if we were going to have a chance in the second half — I thought we could keep it, maybe it was going to be 11, 13, it wasn’t going to be 17. And that was manageable. But we need (Cook) on the floor, especially with Luka (Garza) out.”
It’s been a long-standing strategy for McCaffery to bench any player who gets two fouls in the first half, not wanting to risk a third before intermission, which he feels would take away their ability to be aggressive once the second half begins.
Cook, who finished with three fouls and 24 points Thursday, has been better this season at avoiding such situations. It was only the second time it happened. He played a team-high 33 minutes.
“I guess I’ll try not to pick those fouls up,” Cook said.
“I understand (the strategy). Especially toward the end of the half, me getting three in the first half isn’t necessarily good for our team. So whatever coach feels is best, I’m 100 percent behind it.”
There was no single coaching decision Thursday that was going to save the Hawkeyes (11-3, 0-3 Big Ten Conference). Purdue built a 26-point lead in the second half before Iowa rallied late to make the final score more presentable.
But with only eight healthy scholarship players at his disposal, McCaffery may need to be less rigid about his two-foul policy, especially when it involves his best player.
Cook successfully attacks basket, but not until second half
Cook made only 2-of-8 shots in the first half. He missed badly on three mid-range jumpers, one of which lodged between the rim and the backboard on the far side of the basket. That is a shot that has never looked comfortable for the 6-foot-9 low-post player.
“I want to make every shot I take, but I’m not crying over it. It will go in, so I’ll keep shooting them,” Cook said.
In the second half, Cook did what he does best. He went right at Purdue’s big men, muscling inside to make 7-of-8 shots while drawing five fouls. The Hawkeyes had 24 of their 30 points in the paint after intermission.
Cook acknowledged afterward that he should have figured out how to best attack the Purdue defense in the first half.
“I’ve got to do a better job of kind of picking and choosing my spots in the first half. Being more patient in terms of waiting till I get the looks that I want,” he said. “I think I did a great job of that in the second half, individually. But it doesn’t matter much because we didn’t come out with the win.”
Cook has led Iowa in scoring in seven of the past eight games.
Hawkeyes 0-for-2 when it comes to showing up for road games
Before the season, Iowa junior point guard Jordan Bohannon spoke of the need to be a better leader, especially when his team was on the verge of letting games get out of hand. This has been a particularly troublesome trend in Big Ten road contests.
The early results haven’t been what Bohannon hoped for. The Hawkeyes have played only two road games, but have been beaten badly in both (they lost by 22 points on Dec. 3 at Michigan State). It resembles what happened repeatedly a year ago.
“As much as I want to prevent it, as much as T.C. wants to prevent it, it’s bound to happen throughout the season. The Big Ten’s the best conference in the country,” said Bohannon, who finished with eight points and five assists.
“Any game I go out there, it’s going to be a test of my leadership. Every day I wake up, it’s a test of my leadership. We’re not too worried about it. We’re just going to keep grinding. That’s what we do.”
Iowa responded to the Michigan State loss by returning home to handle Iowa State 98-84. The next game is again vs. a rival at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Nebraska comes in for a 4:30 p.m. meeting Sunday. Consider it a leadership test for Bohannon and Cook.
A third game without a vital big man
Garza, Iowa’s sophomore starting center, has missed the past three games with a sprained ankle. He practiced some Wednesday but was deemed not ready for live action, McCaffery said.
“We’re better with him. We need him,” McCaffery said. “We only warmed him up (Thursday) so he could get a little bit of movement, but we had no intention of playing him.”
It’s possible, but doesn’t seem probable, that Garza could be cleared to go Sunday.
Cook made it clear to Garza that he needs to take as much time as is needed.
“He makes my job a lot easier on both ends of the floor,” Cook said of his 6-11 running mate. “We definitely miss him, but like I told him his No. 1 priority should be to get 100 percent healthy and not just kind of rush himself back. Because his longevity is in his and our best interest.”