IOWA CITY – Peter Jok’s debut as the main man in Fran McCaffery’s offense seemed as effortless as his shooting stroke.
The senior guard steadily kept scoring and wound up with 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting in Iowa’s 91-74 season-opening win against Kennesaw State.
“Kind of a quiet 27,” teammate Christian Williams said.
It really was. Jok scored 16 points in 16 minutes in the first half; 11 in 10 in the second.
“I didn’t really try to force anything. I was going with the flow of the offense,” said Jok, who also had four rebounds, three assists and two steals. “It was quiet because I didn’t really go off – get hot and stay hot. I thought it was decent.”
So, “decent” was more than a point per minute. Stay tuned.
“For me, I’m trying to get 35-plus (points),” Jok said, “and get a good W.”
Forcing the issue?
Tyler Cook became the second Iowa freshman in the last 20 years to post double-digit rebounds in his career debut – hat tip to STATS’ Matt Benson for that morsel; Aaron White (2010) was the other.
Yet it was a bit of an underwhelming debut offensively: six points on 1-of-7 shooting with four of Iowa’s 17 turnovers in 21 minutes.
“He was a little amped up early, I thought,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “His energy level was good, it usually is. He had a couple things didn't go right for him.”
The 6-foot-9, 253-pound Cook brought a lot of anticipation for the announced 13,007 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. And although he tried to force things a bit (he once tried to drive and score against three defenders inside), his first collegiate basket displayed his athleticism – a sensational alley-oop dunk off a transition feed from Jok.
“We told Tyler to get up shots, to keep shooting. We’re going to need Tyler to score. So we’re not too worried about it,” teammate Ahmad Wagner. “We know what type of player he is, what he’s capable of. He’ll be fine.”
The Iowa sophomore had 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks in the opener.
Williams tweaks his back
Christian Williams brings another dimension to Iowa’s point-guard play. In one career start, Williams unofficially has more alley-oop dunks (one) than Mike Gesell did in four years as a starter. (No offense, Mike.) Williams slammed one home on a feed from Jok in the first half.
The rangy 6-foot-5 sophomore was key to Iowa rolling up a 43-25 halftime lead. He moved the ball around with five assists, scored on a sweet finger-roll and played excellent defense.
But early in the second half, he felt back soreness – something that he said bothered him in the summer, too – in the first three minutes and didn’t return.
“He could have gone back (in),” McCaffery said. “I just decided that I'm looking that I'm up 16, 18, so I said I'm not going to put him back in. Especially with a 2:30 game Sunday (against Savannah State).”
With Williams out, freshman Jordan Bohannon played the final 17 minutes as Kennesaw State outscored the Hawkeyes, 49-48. Bohannon isn’t as strong a defender as Williams, but he did show his range – drilling two 3-pointers late to sew up the win.
“I thought he did really well,” Williams said. “He didn’t really make any bone-head mistakes.”
The Iowa coach speaks after a 91-74 win over Kennesaw State.
The rotation and redshirts
With Dale Jones (knee swelling) unavailable, there were no conclusions to be drawn about McCaffery’s rotation.
But on Friday, he generally seemed most comfortable with this top eight: Williams, Jok, Cook, Dom Uhl (eight points, five rebounds), Nicholas Baer (10 points), Ahmad Wagner (12 points, five rebounds, four assists, four blocks), Cordell Pemsl (10 points, six rebounds) and Bohannon.
Sophomore Brady Ellingson (one missed shot in 15 minutes) and freshman Ryan Kriener (six points, three rebounds in nine minutes) were the ninth and 10th guys.
Redshirt freshman Isaiah Moss didn’t get into the game until the final four minutes, and he drained his first career field-goal attempt in the first minute.
But stringy freshman guard Maishe Dailey didn’t play, sparking a question to McCaffery: Is he redshirting?
Doesn’t sound like it.
Dailey not playing “was an indication of I was struggling with (the decision),” McCaffery said. “Because he deserved to get in there. I think we'll put him in there on Sunday, yeah. I just ... he's too good a player. I was concerned with burning a year for him, but he wants to play. So I'll play him.”
What about Jones?
Jones has said he doesn’t want to rush back from December right-knee surgery (after his second ACL tear), so McCaffery is trying to be patient with the sharpshooting fifth-year junior forward, too.
“I thought he might play today, but the problem is he hasn't practiced,” McCaffery said. “So, in fairness to him, it's hard to figure out what to do with him right now. As frustrated as he is right now, I'm probably as frustrated for him.”