Uthoff leads Hawkeyes' opening win; Jok injures ankle

Chad Leistikow
Jarrod Uthoff rises up for two of his 21 first-half points for Iowa in  Friday night's season opener against Gardner-Webb.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Jarrod Uthoff made good on his promise.

Uthoff scored 21 points, all in the first half, and the Iowa basketball team pulled away from Gardner-Webb, 76-59, in Friday night’s season opener before an announced crowd of 14,209 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Following an exhibition loss to Division II Augustana (S.D.) a week ago, Uthoff told head coach Fran McCaffery, “I’m going to get it corrected, and you’ll never have that problem again,” after a sluggish performance.

“You’ve just got to come out with an aggressive mindset,” Uthoff said Friday. “It’s the first game of the year that counts.”

Gardner-Webb, an athletic team that won 20 games a year ago (including at Purdue), gave the Hawkeyes all they could handle. The Runnin’ Bulldogs led 31-28 with 6 minutes left in the first half.

Uthoff came to the rescue, unveiling a full arsenal of scoring options. The smooth 6-foot-9 senior from Cedar Rapids Jefferson had six first-half field goals; Iowa’s other four starters combined for one.

Uthoff scored off a steal, off a tip-in, off his patented fadeaway jumper, from 3-point range and from the foul line (7-for-7). He scored the final seven points of the first half to give Iowa a 41-37 lead at the break.

“Just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Uthoff said. “They fouled me, and I got to the free-throw line. That definitely helped me a lot, getting to the line and getting some easy points.”

Out of halftime, the Hawkeyes looked like a different team. Peter Jok buried back-to-back 3-pointers and Mike Gesell’s steal-and-layup put Iowa up by 12. Jok was helped to the locker room a few minutes later after suffering an ankle injury; he returned to the Hawkeye bench wearing a boot on his right leg.

McCaffery said he wouldn’t categorize the injury as severe, adding: “I don’t think it’s going to keep him out for three weeks or anything like that.”

Iowa pulled away in the second half behind some unexpected bench players. Walk-on freshman Nicholas Baer, after not playing in the first half, popped in a pair of 3-pointers. Freshman forward Ahmad Wagner, the 12th Hawkeye that McCaffery put into the game, blocked a shot and scored off two putbacks to inflate Iowa’s lead to 69-51.

Adam Woodbury scored 11 points with six rebounds for the Hawkeyes, who return here at 4 p.m. Sunday to face Coppin State. Wagner finished with six points and a team-high eight rebounds (six offensive). Gesell scored two points, but delivered nine assists.