IOWA CITY, Ia. — The recipe for an upset begins with a star player leading the way.
Iowa definitely got that from Peter Jok on Thursday in a convincing 78-64 victory over No. 25 Iowa State before an announced crowd of 13,956 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The senior guard had a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes of toil.
But it was the sea of underclassmen that surrounded Jok that enabled him to savor his first victory in four chances against his in-state rival.
There were daring drives from redshirt freshman Isaiah Moss, sage post moves from true freshman Cordell Pemsl and one audacious long 3-point swish from true freshman Jordan Bohannon that may have been the biggest shot of the game.
Throw in the hustle plays of sophomores Nicholas Baer and Ahmad Wagner, and a couple of timely 3-pointers from Brady Ellingson and Dom Uhl, and it was a total team effort for the underdog Hawkeyes (5-5).
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery used nine players, all of them for at least 11 minutes. Each of them scored, and each contributed to Iowa’s best defensive performance of the season.
“We executed. We had fun,” said Pemsl, who had 11 points and five rebounds. “It was the first game that we really went out there and we were enthusiastic on the bench or on the floor and for 40 minutes we were tuned in to the game.”
The Hawkeyes built a double-digit lead eight minutes into the game after Baer came off the bench and quickly scored five consecutive points, followed by Ellingson’s corner three. That made it 23-12. Iowa State (6-3), looking sluggish and befuddled on offense, never cut the deficit below six points again.
Iowa State made only 25 of 70 shots (35.7 percent). The Cyclones started five seniors, and Iowa made them look like the less experienced team.
“They really didn’t let us fluster them too much,” Pemsl said. “We were just executing our stuff the way we wanted to. We knew what we wanted to do in this game. We knew we couldn’t get shook in any way.”
No Hawkeye exemplified that more than Bohannon, the 6-foot point guard tasked with going head-to-head with Cyclone all-American Monte Morris. Morris managed only 10 points and five assists on 4-for-15 shooting.
Bohannon, meanwhile, hit a 3-pointer two minutes into the game, then went quiet offensively. It wasn’t until the Cyclones cut the lead to 60-53 with 6:10 remaining that he was heard from again. But then it almost brought the roof down.
Bohannon pulled up for a long 3-pointer in front of his bench with 20 seconds left on the shot clock.
“That's what you love about him,” McCaffery said. “He missed one and he just jumps up and makes probably the biggest shot of the game. No big deal.”
Bohannon said he never thought about the consequences of a missed shot. What was going through his mind?
“Make it. Extend it to 10 points. Keep increasing our lead,” Bohannon said. “There’s no reason to think about a shot when you’ve been shooting 500 shots a day and you’re putting all that work in.”
From there, it was the Moss show. The Chicago native drove into the teeth of the Cyclone defense three times in the late stages to make contested layups, twice drawing fouls in the process. He finished with 14 points and thoroughly enjoyed playing in his first Cy-Hawk rivalry game.
“With the crowd going, the energy, it was different. I liked it though. I liked it a lot,” Moss said. “I think I’m really good in transition. I can see open lanes.”
Pemsl said the players all thought about the importance of the game to Jok, but it wasn’t overtly stated. The Dubuque native had his own motivation to win. All of the Hawkeyes did after stumbling in their first four games against high-level competition this season.
“The focus wasn’t, ‘Let’s win for Pete.’ It was, ‘Let’s win for ourselves.’ Because we needed a big win like tonight," Pemsl said. "We’ve been in games, but we just couldn’t finish them out. But tonight we executed tremendously. We did everything we wanted to do.”
In the waning seconds, the inevitable chant of “Hawkeye state!” broke out in the crowd. Pemsl heard it on the bench.
“I try not to pay attention to that stuff,” he said with a satisfied smile. “We wanted to win and execute and do everything that coaches wrote up for us, and we did just that.
“So they can chant whatever they want. But we’re the ones in control of the game.”
Complete control, as it turned out.