Iowa bench looks for consistency this week

Rick Brown
Iowa's Ahmad Wagner has a chance for extended minutes with Dale Jones out for the season.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Dom Uhl has been an enigma this season.

Iowa’s sophomore forward had 18 points against Coppin State, but failed to score against Notre Dame or Wichita State. And he got off to a shaky start in Saturday’s 20-point victory over Missouri-Kansas City.

“He didn’t start great,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “If you think about it, he fumbled it. I was getting ready to yank him, because I didn’t think he was quite ready.”

But as the coach contemplated making a substitution, Uhl flew to the glass for a rebound. A burst of energy that kept him in the game.

“His success wasn’t great, but his energy level was worth me leaving him in the game,” McCaffery said. “And then he was spectacular.”

Uhl finished with 14 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, his first career double-double.

“I’m just so proud of him and we need it,” McCaffery said.

Bench scoring pushes Iowa hoops to win over UMKC

Uhl will have two chances this week to show some consistency, starting with Monday’s 6 p.m. game with Western Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. That will be followed by a road trip to Iowa State Thursday.

McCaffery, whose team is off to a 6-2 start, said he’s not worried about the Hawkeyes looking past the Leathernecks with an in-state game on the horizon.

“We don’t ever worry about that kind of stuff,” McCaffery said. “(Western Illinois) beat Wisconsin at Wisconsin, so clearly they’ll have our full attention. We won’t even talk about Iowa State until after that game.”

The development of players like Uhl is magnified now that Dale Jones has been lost for the season with a knee injury. Jones was another perimeter threat and, more importantly, he showed signs of being a solid rebounder, something this team needs going forward.

Dale Jones out for the season

Also in line for a bigger role in the rotation are a pair of freshman forwards, Nicholas Baer and Ahmad Wagner. Baer, a walk-on from Bettendorf, had a career-high 14 points and five rebounds against Missouri-Kansas City.

“A lot of times you look at his stats, and his defense doesn’t show up,” McCaffery said of Baer. “He made some great defensive plays against a long, athletic team. I just couldn’t be happier for him, the way he’s playing.”

Wagner, who has a Big Ten body but not Big Ten experience, has been making good use of his minutes. He had nine points and five rebounds against Missouri-Kansas City.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete, but he’s really a cerebral guy,” McCaffery said. “He understands what needs to be done. He processes the scouting report, he knows what we’re doing on offense, he knows what we’re doing on defense, he knows who he’s guarding, and he never tries to get out of what he does well. He makes a play when the play is there.”