Hawkeyes need more willing rebounders

Mark Emmert

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Only two Iowa basketball players rebounded with a purpose in Saturday’s home loss against Nebraska-Omaha. And one of them was star shooting guard Peter Jok.

That’s bad news for a Hawkeyes squad riding a four-game losing streak. Jok, averaging 25 points in a team-leading 30 minutes per game, shouldn’t be asked to expend so much energy corralling defensive rebounds.

He had nine of them in the 98-89 setback against the Mavericks. Jok now also leads Iowa with 5.6 rebounds per game.

Iowa guard Peter Jok (right) and forward Ahmad Wagner were the team's most active rebounders Saturday against Nebraska-Omaha. Now they need the rest of the Hawkeyes to follow their lead.

“We’ve been struggling rebounding against a lot of teams,” Jok said. “So my mindset (Saturday) was to try to help the big guys rebound. So instead of leaking out I stayed under there trying to help them rebound.”

But didn’t that wear him out?

“No excuses,” Jok said. “I should want to rebound. I’ve got to do better rebounding.”

Jok finished with his second career double-double, scoring 33 points with 10 rebounds in 37 minutes against UNO. No other Hawkeye had more than three defensive rebounds.

The team has been outrebounded by 21 in its most recent losses, at Notre Dame and against UNO. Both games were played without forward Tyler Cook, out with a broken finger after averaging 5.3 rebounds in Iowa’s first six games.

It will take a more concerted effort by the Hawkeyes (3-5) to own the glass, starting at 6 p.m. Monday when Stetson visits Carver-Hawkeye Arena for a game televised on ESPNU. The Hatters (4-5) are being outrebounded 45-37 on average this season.

Leistikow: Hawkeyes look in mirror after humbling loss

The good news for Iowa was the inspired play of reserve forward Ahmad Wagner in the second half against UNO. The sophomore grabbed six offensive rebounds after intermission as the Hawkeyes held their own against the Mavericks on the glass for that 20 minutes.

“When they made their run in the second half, they were climbing all over the glass,” Mavericks coach Derrin Hansen noted.

Wagner had watched as his team was outboarded 23-15 in the opening 20 minutes. He knew that couldn’t stand.

“My goal was to try to get us more shots, try to get us more opportunities because we weren’t out there doing it,” Wagner said.

“At times, I admit we were lackadaisical. But I know we’re going to get better.”

Wagner turned his ferocious rebounding effort into only four points, missing close-range shots that he admitted he should have made. But no one could fault his effort.

“I see myself as a leader on the team. So if I can go out there and effect change with my energy and get people to follow that, then I’m going to do that every night,” Wagner said.

“It’s a mindset. You’ve got to want to go to the glass every possession. Sometimes it’s tough because you see a guy getting a layup and you think, ‘Ah, he’s going to make that.’ But it’s a mindset to say I’m going to go just in case he misses.”

The next step is getting more Hawkeyes to adopt that mindset. Freshman point guard Jordan Bohannon was certainly impressed by Wagner’s energy.

“He brings a whole other dimension when he’s on the glass like that. We know if we miss a 3, he’s able to pull it down,” Bohannon said.

“However many guys are playing, we just want to have that same mentality. Some of the guys are having it. It’s just the entire team that needs to have it.”