IOWA CITY, Ia. — Brady Ellingson’s eyes grew wide as he sat on the Iowa bench Sunday watching his teammates fire away.
Savannah State, a defensively challenged team to begin with, opted to play a soft zone against the Hawkeyes. Peter Jok and Nicholas Baer launched 3-pointers at will in the early going.
Ellingson, a sophomore guard, checked in seven minutes into the game and quickly got into the flow. He finished with a career-high 23 points as Iowa set a program record by hoisting 43 3-point attempts against the Tigers. Iowa made 18 of them, another school record, to claim an easy 116-84 victory before an announced crowd of 11,371 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes (2-0) used 13 players, and all scored.
“Pete and Baer, they came out shooting. They had real good looks so I was just kind of waiting for my turn,” Ellingson said.
“We really weren’t expecting them to play zone, so you‘ve just got to be prepared for anything.”
Ellingson scored 21 points in the first half to eclipse the 20 points he scored last season against Coppin State. He made 7 of 9 shots, including 4 of 6 3-pointers, and all five of this free throws. Three of those came when he was fouled attempting a 3-pointer.
It was a promising showing for a player who redshirted as a freshman with a foot injury and then saw his playing time diminish last season while struggling with his shooting.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery praised Ellingson’s progress.
“Everybody wants it right away. Doesn’t happen right away for everybody,” McCaffery said. “So while I’m proud of him, I think he’s doing what I expected him to do and what he expected of himself, which I think is more important.”
Baer is catalyst
Baer’s first 3-pointer, one-minute, thirty-three seconds into the game, gave Iowa a lead it never relinquished. His second long ball showed just how important the sophomore forward can be on a young Hawkeye team.
After Jok missed a shot, Baer surprised the Tigers by not heading downcourt to play defense, instead leaping to steal the outlet pass. He then calmly drained another three. But it was the steal that was indicative of how heady of a player Baer is.
“They want to get it in quickly down the floor and shoot in three seconds. So he just comes back and steals one right in the beginning of the game. It was also a message that we kind of know what your intentions are,” McCaffery said of Baer. “It takes a certain amount of savvy to defend that kind of action consistently. That’s where a guy like Baer, because he won’t stop, he won’t forget, he won’t slow down, and everybody kind of rises to his energy level.”
Baer finished with nine points, a career-high six assists, two blocked shots and two steals. Against a Savannah State team that presses non-stop, he had no turnovers. Iowa point guards Christian Williams and Jordan Bohannon combined for 11 assists with just one turnover.
That’s efficient and encouraging, although the test gets much tougher Thursday, when Seton Hall comes to town for an 8 p.m. tipoff.
Freshman guard Maishe Dailey checked in to the game with 2:43 left in the first half. That was a signal that McCaffery will not redshirt any of his five scholarship rookies. Dailey didn’t play in Friday’s season-opening win over Kennesaw State, but told the Hawkeye coaches that he wanted to see action this year, and sooner rather than later.
“The decision was up to me whether I felt comfortable doing it,” Dailey said of burning a potential redshirt season. “All the coaches, they all felt comfortable with my decision, so I decided to play.”
He admitted to being a little jittery at first, and committed a foul with 12 seconds left in the half when he left his feet to contest a shot and instead landed on Savannah State’s Joshua Floyd. McCaffery later stopped Dailey in front of the bench while the rest of the team went to the locker room for halftime, calmly offering some advice.
“He said, ‘Just make him take a tough two,’” Dailey said of that conversation.
Dailey saw much more action in the second half, buried a couple of 3-pointers and ended up with six points, three rebounds, two steals, a block and two turnovers.
“I stopped thinking too much and I started playing my game,” he said. “I think I can do better.”
McCaffery was pleased.
“He showed his athletic ability. He kills the corner three. He’s not afraid to shoot. Had some defensive instincts, utilized his length,” McCaffery said of the 6-foot-6 Ohio native. “He’s going to be really good.”
Cook comes around
Freshman starter Tyler Cook struggled early, scoring only four points in 8 first-half minutes. McCaffery had to sit him down to have a talk about defense.
“He was so aggressive defensively, he just deviated from the game plan a little bit,” McCaffery explained.
Cook also picked up two early fouls. In the second half, Iowa fans got their first glimpse of what the highly touted recruit can do. He hit two baseline jumpers, then bulled his way to the basket for back-to-back dunks.
“Beginning of the second half, he was a dominant player on the baseline. We needed him to go to work on the baseline,” McCaffery said.
Cook, who scored six points Friday, finished with 14.
Pemsl impresses again
Meanwhile, freshman forward Cordell Pemsl had another terrific showing off the bench. He scored 18 points and added nine rebounds. He made all seven of his field-goal attempts. More promising was that he made all four free throws after missing five of seven attempts Friday.
McCaffery, who started scouting Pemsl when he was an eighth-grader in Dubuque, said he’s not surprised by what the rookie is doing. Pemsl had 10 points and six rebounds Friday.
“There’s no panic in his game at all. Nothing rattles him. He makes a mistake, he comes right back and doesn’t let it linger on him,” McCaffery said. “That’s a special talent to have, especially when you’re a young player.”