CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — He’s done it all season, and Iowa’s Peter Jok did it again Sunday — silencing a revved-up opposing crowd.
Jok scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half to take the air out of Illinois’ legendary Orange Krush student section in the seventh-ranked Hawkeyes’ 77-65 victory.
An announced crowd of 13,849 was on hand at the State Farm Center, the largest here since Dec. 30, for what’s historically been a heated border-state rivalry. But you wouldn’t have guessed it given Sunday's unusually low decibel levels.
“I usually don’t pay attention to it, but today, their fans were talking crap,” Jok said. “When we were up, I tried to turn around and shush them. It was an in-the-moment thing. As a team, we don’t really worry about the crowd. We love it when there’s silence. That means we’re doing good.”
Some of Jok’s most memorable games have come on the road. He scored 23 points at Michigan State, including 19 in a crowd-silencing first half Jan. 14 as Iowa broke an 18-game losing streak at the Breslin Center. A week later, he scored a career-high 29 points at Rutgers.
In one sequence Sunday after Illinois cut Iowa’s lead to 43-36, Jok canned a 3-pointer, then stole the ball from Khalid Lewis and scored on a breakaway, two-handed dunk.
Iowa is 7-0 when Jok scores 20 or more points.
“He’s playing with a tremendous amount of confidence,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Obviously, you can see that.”
The Pass Man
Adam Woodbury racked up 14 rebounds against Illinois, four days after pulling down a career-best 15 against Penn State. But Sunday, he was Iowa’s leading assist man, too — with four.
“It’s not very often the '5' man does that; usually our guards get them all,” Woodbury said with a grin. “Anything I can do to help the team win. I had some easy ones where guys were cutting to the lane and finishing for me.”
But no question, Woodbury’s interior presence has been instrumental to the Hawkeyes’ run to first place in the Big Ten Conference (19-4, 10-1 Big Ten). Sometimes stats don’t tell the story for Woodbury. On Sunday, they did: 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting (he rebounded and scored off his only miss), plus team highs in rebounds and assists in 30 minutes.
Iowa won the rebounding battle, 43-32 — plus-11 being its biggest margin on the boards in a game this season. Of 38 possible defensive rebounds, Iowa grabbed 31 of them.
“Adam has really established himself, I think, as a premier rebounder in this country,” McCaffery said. "It makes such a difference to your defense if you only give them one shot.”
Clemmons The Glove
Anthony Clemmons continued to build his case for the all-Big Ten defensive team — his stated goal before the season. Assigned to high-scoring Illinois guard Kendrick Nunn (17.3 ppg), Clemmons held him to six points on 2-for-13 shooting.
“That’s my job. Make it hard for him, make it tough,” Clemmons said. “I wanted to get after him early. … He was never in a good rhythm.”
After the game, Illinois coach John Groce said of Nunn: “He just didn’t have one of his better games. He didn’t play well.”
Give Clemmons a big share of the credit. He collected four steals.
Don’t be surprised to see Clemmons take his turn at guarding Indiana star guard Yogi Ferrell (17.3 ppg) in Thursday’s ESPN-televised showdown in Bloomington, Ind.
“I take on the challenge. It’s something I really want,” Clemmons said. “It’s something I try to impose my will in every game. Whoever’s the best guard on the floor, I want to take that guard — whether he’s 5-10 or 6-6 or 6-7. That’s what sparks me.”
Gesell finds his shot
Iowa point guard Mike Gesell had been scuffling — 8-for-33 shooting in his last five games. But he got a series of tough 18-foot jumpers to fall Sunday, which was big for his confidence.
“It always feels good to see the ball go in,” the senior said.
Gesell finished with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting. When his shot is on, it makes top scorers Jarrod Uthoff and Jok more of a threat.
“I’m just looking to stay aggressive and keep shooting,” Gesell said. “When I’m not even making shots, but taking shots, it forces guys to key on me and opens things up for Jarrod and Pete a little bit more.”
By the numbers
Iowa’s 10-1 record in the Big Ten matches its best conference start since Lute Olson’s 1981-82 team that wound up losing five of its last seven games. … With Sunday’s win, McCaffery moved past Bucky O’Connor (114) for No. 5 on Iowa’s all-time coaching wins list. McCaffery has a 115-79 record at Iowa. Rollie Williams is No. 4, with 139 wins. … The Hawkeyes could move up from No. 5 to No. 3 in Monday’s Associated Press poll after a loss by No. 1 Oklahoma to Kansas State and two losses by No. 2 North Carolina. Perhaps the Hawkeyes will for the first time this season garner one or more first-place votes.