IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa players, especially Peter Jok, were tired of hearing about this being a Cyclone state in basketball.
For three straight years, Jok watched Iowa State beat the Hawkeyes in this series — including twice painfully in Ames when Iowa frittered away very late leads.
In his senior year, though, Jok had the final say. He was chest-bumping with joy Thursday night after the energetic Hawkeyes played their most complete game of the season in thumping No. 25 Iowa State 78-64 before a national-TV audience.
“He told us yesterday, he’s never beaten Iowa State,” Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon said. “Us freshmen, we didn’t realize that at first.”
Bohannon was a junior at Linn-Mar and Cordell Pemsl a junior at Dubuque Wahlert when Georges Niang blew a good-bye kiss to the Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd after a runaway Cyclone win two years ago.
And just this week, a shot was sent from Ames to Iowa City when Cyclone star Monte Morris said: “We’re trying to go out there and beat them badly.”
“Nobody in the country believed we (were) going to win,” Jok said, “except for us.”
And from the outset, there seemed to be no denying Iowa’s star sharpshooter.
“I think he was pretty determined that we were not going to lose this game,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “I mean, he put us on his back early offensively, and I think everybody came with him.”
Jok finished with game-highs of 23 points and nine rebounds.
You knew it was Jok's night when he squared up at the end of the first half from 22 feet, and his shot deadened on the back of the rim and fell in for a couldn’t-do-it-if-he-tried 3-pointer and a 44-29 halftime lead.
“I wanted to swish,” he grinned. “But a 3’s a 3.”
Later, from the tip of painted Herky’s beak on Mediacom Court — a good 27 feet out, at least — Jok splashed through perhaps his most impressive 3 of the season for a 55-39 lead.
It was not only his night. It was Iowa’s night.
Few could’ve seen this Hawkeye performance coming.
The Cyclones (6-3) were holding teams to 34.1 percent shooting, fourth in the country. Iowa (5-5) shot 47.1 percent Thursday.
Meanwhile, an Iowa team that let Nebraska-Omaha score 98 points five days earlier held the Cyclones to 64 on 35.7 percent shooting.
Where’d the Hawkeyes’ fire come from?
From Hawkeye senior to freshman, Morris’ comments certainly stoked the already-warm embers.
“We read some of the comments they made to the media,” Jok said. “We were really hyped and wanted to win.”
Added Bohannon: "We know what everyone’s saying. Individually, I think it added a lot of motivation to us.”
Certainly, the few thousand red-clad Cyclone fans among the 13,956 at Carver-Hawkeye came with hopes of celebrating a fourth straight win over an in-state rival.
They made their voices heard even before tip-off, and they roared as Matt Thomas swished a 3 on the game’s opening possession.
But things changed in a flurry.
Jok scored five quick points, his transition layup giving Iowa an 11-10 lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Soon, it was 23-12.
"Transition ... or Jok," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. "That's their main two weapons. Transition. Transition. Transition. Transition."
Jok’s shot had been off in the previous three games (16-for-54, 29.6 percent). But he was in top form Thursday, hitting smooth jumpers off the dribble without trying to do too much.
What was important on this night: He also got help from his young supporting cast.
Isaiah Moss and Nicholas Baer drove for coast-to-coast lay-ins; Ahmad Wagner provided a physical presence to keep Iowa competitive on the boards; Brady Ellingson and Dom Uhl delivered first-half 3-pointers as the shot clock wound down.
Wagner said before the game: “We’ve got to send Pete off right.”
They all did.
And now the Hawkeyes have wins in football, women’s basketball and men’s basketball over the Cyclones in 2016.
A Cyclone state? Not this year.
By the final minute, the chant “Hawkeye state” was booming from the home crowd, one that hadn’t seen a win over the Cyclones since Jok was starring at West Des Moines Valley.
"It feels great to be a Hawkeye state in every sport, really,” Jok said. “On Saturday, I think the wrestling team is going to get it done and close everything out.”
And those 61 weeks in a row in which Iowa State has been ranked in the nation’s Top 25?
The Hawkeyes did the honors in kissing that streak good-bye, too.
“It’s a great win for us as a team,” Jok said. “It’s one step for us for the rest of the season. We know we can play defense now against a great team. That was a great team right there.”
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 22 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.