Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff 'mad at himself,' teammates expect big response

Chad Leistikow
Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff had three points and went without a field goal in the first half of Thursday's 74-68 loss at Maryland. He finished with nine points and still holds a narrow lead in the Big Ten scoring race. He is averaging 18.40 points per game, Michigan State's Denzel Valentine is at 18.39.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Jarrod Uthoff’s Iowa teammates are supremely confident he’ll bounce back from his worst game of the season.

Uthoff was held to 2-for-13 shooting and a season-low nine points in Thursday’s 74-68 loss to No. 8 Maryland. A shot at redemption comes quickly in Sunday’s 2 p.m. home game against reeling Northwestern.

“I’m not going to worry. He didn’t play that well tonight, but I know he’ll come back next game ready to go,” Iowa’s Peter Jok said. “Whoever’s guarding him next game better come ready to play. He was mad at himself.”

Yes, Uthoff used the word “terrible” to describe his play in third-ranked Iowa’s first loss since Dec. 10 at Iowa State. A player who remains in discussion for Big Ten Conference MVP was held to single-digit scoring for the first time since Iowa’s 2015 NCAA Tournament win over Davidson.

“I’ve had games like this before. They happen from time to time. The best players in the world have games like this. I think you can’t overthink it. I’m going to get back in the gym obviously, and work on my shot. It’s nothing like reinventing the wheel. I just had an off game, and we’ll bounce back on Sunday.”

Uthoff carries a quiet demeanor, so it’s not always easy to tell what he’s thinking about.

But Iowa needs him. And Uthoff might have to make some changes in his game going forward, as Maryland showed a script on how to slow down the conference’s leading scorer.

The Terrapins delivered a physical, aggressive defensive approach against the 6-foot-9, 221-pound Uthoff. Northwestern, under third-year coach Chris Collins, has developed a similarly rugged style to hang with opponents. The Wildcats (15-7, 3-6 in the Big Ten), though, aren't nearly as talented as the outfit Mark Turgeon had scheming against the Hawkeyes at the raucous Xfinity Center.

“He’s one of the best players in the country, so I think a lot of teams are going to start playing him like that,” said point guard Mike Gesell, who was held to one assist Thursday. His previous season low was three. “We’ve got to do a better job of trying to get him open and freeing him up when they’re playing him like that.”

Iowa takeaways: Game ball felt 'heavy'; Uthoff's positive spin

Iowa had a 13-game regular-season winning streak in Big Ten play snapped Thursday.

You might remember the previous loss, Feb. 15 in overtime at Northwestern. In that game, star senior Aaron White had his worst offensive game of the year — two points on 1-for-12 shooting.

White responded by going on a six-game tear that carried Iowa into a tie for third place in the Big Ten.

There’s a long way to go in the Big Ten race — Iowa (16-4 overall) is tied for first with Indiana at 7-1 with 10 games to go as it seeks its first regular-season league title since 1978-79. Maryland (18-3, 7-2) is a half-game behind, and Michigan (16-5, 6-2) is right there, too.

The Hawkeye players are counting on their star to lead the charge.

“A great player like that, you can’t ever stop going to him,” Gesell said. “Even when he’s not hitting shots, I always feel his next shot’s going in. And I’m going to keep loading him up as a point guard.”