Takeaways: Cook impresses in Hawkeye debut

Matthew Bain

Bold-lettered, bright, neon-colored disclaimer: This was an exhibition. It’s dangerous to take too much from a meaningless game against a Division II opponent, albeit a good one.

OK, that’s been said. Now we can move on.

Iowa handled Regis University 95-73 in its only open exhibition Friday night. Peter Jok led all scorers with 28 points, including 13 straight to send the Hawkeyes to halftime up 51-31.

Regis slowly clawed back in the second half and erased the gap to 67-58 halfway through the period. But Iowa woke up and finished the game on a 28-15 run.

Here are some takeaways from Iowa’s up-and-down win.

Successful debut

Tyler Cook jumped too early at the opening tip-off, whiffed, and Regis got the ball. Seconds later, he traveled on Iowa’s first offensive possession.

Those were pretty much Cook’s only two “freshmen” moments. ESPN’s No. 38 recruit finished his first college game with 15 points, six rebounds and three steals in 26 minutes.

“I thought he was terrific. He was a presence, obviously, at both ends of the floor,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “I thought he really fit into what we’re trying to do.  We went to him a couple times, we’ll go to him more. But I want to see our guys recognize that he had nine shots and seven free throws. Those numbers should be doubled.”

Cook looked best with his back to the basket. All five of his buckets were either spin-move layups in the paint or emphatic dunks. He’s got range, but he seemed a bit hesitant to show it. Twice in the first half he got a pass on the perimeter, shot-faked and tried to drive to the basket. He didn't shoot his first 3, a corner 3, until 12:25 remained in the game; the shot rimmed out.

Nicholas Baer was asked what he saw from Cook.

“What did you guys see from Tyler?” he chuckled. “I mean, I was really impressed by him. And not too surprised at all. He’s a guy that was a big recruit for us, and I think Hawk fans are excited to watch him play. We’re going to keep giving him the ball and he’s going to keep finishing for us.”

Who's the X-factor?

Iowa hit a nasty lull in the second half. From the 16:24 mark to the 10:43 mark, it scored one point. Its 63-41 lead shrunk to 64-54. It desperately needed a spark. Enter, Baer and Cook.

Cook stole a pass on Regis' side of the floor with just under 10 minutes left and immediately dished it to Jok, who drew a foul while driving to the basket. That revved things up a bit. It was Iowa's only highlight from the past six minutes, and it put Iowa up 69-58 — the lead back above 10.

Then Baer finished an acrobatic layup and drew a foul on Iowa's next possession. He missed the and-one, but his silky-smooth moves in the air revved things up even more.

Iowa Hawkeyes handle Regis, 95-73, in exhibition

Cook stole the ball on Regis' next possession. He coughed it up for a second, but the ball landed in Bohannon's arms and he gave it to Cook for a wide-open dunk. By then Iowa was up 73-60 and clearly feeling good again. Even the respectable speckle of fans got excited again.

“One of the things that coach talked about at halftime was that we weren’t playing with any emotion, any energy," Cook said. "For our first game, it should have been a lot better than that. So we just had to figure out how somebody was going to bring that energy, and that’s what we tried to do.”

Iowa will need to address why the heck it took so long for someone to light the fire in that second half.

“I think there were times in the second half when we were casual," Baer said. "That’s possible with a younger team, especially with a 20-point lead. But there were definitely some mistakes, but they were all correctable.”

Point guard depth is a strength

Entering Friday, Christian Williams and Bohannon both had distinct selling points to be the starting point guard.

Williams, 6-foot-5, is a lengthy guard, almost the size you’d expect of a wing. He can pass and defend better than Bohannon with that length, and as a sophomore he’s got a better handle on the college game.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery gets a chuckle after an official correctly overturned a call in the Hawkeyes' favor during their 82-71 win Sunday over Michigan. McCaffery's team has won seven in a row.

Bohannon is a lights-out shooter who can quickly change a game with his 3-pointers.

The players fit their bills against Regis. Williams was consistently smart with the ball, recording five assists to zero turnovers. He also wound up with 11 points. Bohannon was a spark-plug off the bench in the first half, quickly scoring seven points on two free throws, a deep 3-pointer and a transition layup.

McCaffery said he likes his starting five from Wednesday: Jok, Baer, Dom Uhl, Cook and Williams. With Baer in the top five, that leaves the sixth-man spot open, and it looks like Bohannon might be a good candidate.

Bohannon and Williams will also play on the floor together this year. That happened for a few minutes late in the second half, and here’s what jumped out:

One, Regis immediately got an offensive rebound. Iowa, already a small team, will give up significant size with both points on the floor.

Two, when Iowa ran a halfcourt offense, Bohannon took the ball up the floor. Makes sense — Williams will logically be shooting guard in these situations. His length poses a greater threat than Bohannon could as the off guard.

Three, these dudes have a connection. Going head-to-head against one another every day in practice must do something, because Bohannon found Williams on a long-range, fastbreak pass, which Williams turned into a slam dunk. It was easily the prettiest play of the game.

“We need both of those guys,” McCaffery said. “But Christian was 11 and five with zero turnovers, that’s a pretty good night. Jordan had eight points, he was 1 for 5. That’s not going to happen very often, from 3. And also had three assists.”

Bain covers Hawkeyes basketball for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter@MatthewBain_.