Iowa took the fight right out of Northern Iowa in the first half of Saturday’s 69-46 rout.
Anyone in Wells Fargo Arena could sense it. The Panthers put up only 16 points on 6 of 31 shooting in the opening 20 minutes. They scored a mere four points in the paint. By the time the Hawkeyes burst to a 20-point lead early in the second half, you could hear the buses warming up for the trip back east.
How did the Hawkeyes impose their will so decisively?
“One of our goals was to get them out of rhythm and get them in a situation where the things that they wanted to do weren’t working for them,” Iowa forward Cordell Pemsl said. “We did a great job on the defensive end. We were rotating well. We were guarding our own man well. They were trying to run everything, and they just couldn’t get it going.”
Hawkeyes guard Isaiah Moss said he could sense the Panthers growing frustrated.
“We just had to keep it going — not let up at all,” he said.
They didn’t. It was an exclamation mark on a three-game winning streak for Iowa (6-5). Here are some other takeaways from the victory:
Moss missed all three of his shots in the first half and was scoreless in 7 minutes. He got some words of encouragement during the break and promptly hit a jump shot, a layup and three free throws to score the Hawkeyes’ first seven points of the second half, pushing their lead to 41-22.
“I was a little more aggressive. I was getting to the rim. In the first half, I think I rushed my shots too much,” Moss said. “The coaches told me, ‘Be a little more aggressive. Let the game come to me.’”
Moss finished with those seven points, but they made an impression on senior guard Peter Jok, who is looking for teammates to help ease the scoring burden on him.
“He was kind of quiet the first half, and then the second half I told him — and I think coach told him — to pick it up,” Jok said of Moss. “This just shows that there’s other guys on the team that can step up.”
Pemsl's comfort zone
Pemsl made all four his shots and finished with 10 points to continue an amazing pattern of efficiency. The freshman is now shooting an unbelievable 76.7 percent from the field (46 of 60). He is second to Jok in points scored, with 116. It’s gotten to the point where it’s a major surprise when a Pemsl field-goal attempt rims out.
Most of those attempts are from close range, although Pemsl did sink a 10-foot jump shot Saturday. How big is his comfort zone?
“I know that the shots I’m taking are pretty efficient — and that they’re ones that I can make,” Pemsl said. “So when I get into the game and I finally do get the ball in a position where I know I might shoot it, I feel confident in myself that I’m able to make those.”
Pemsl is scoring 0.59 points for each minute he plays. Yeah, that’s efficient.
Baer is a delight
Sophomore forward Nicholas Baer is no longer a starter, but his impact and his ambition haven’t diminished one bit. He had his first career double-double — 11 points and 11 rebounds — against Northern Iowa. And, in typical fashion, he didn’t stop there, adding three assists, Iowa’s only two blocked shots and one steal in 28 minutes. And his stat line could have been much gaudier if he hadn’t missed six of his seven 3-point attempts.
“We knew that UNI really prides itself on getting 50-50 balls — and they’re a very good rebounding team,” said Baer, adding that his mindset doesn’t change whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. “We just understood that if we want to be successful, all championship-level teams, they play defense and they rebound.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery opened his postgame remarks with a string of praise for Baer.
“Every time he’s on the bench, I’m thinking, 'How can I get him back in?' We’ve all seen him kind of go till exhaustion, and that’s why we’ve got to take him out,” McCaffery said. “He’s got an incredible ability to come off the bench and impact the game right away. A lot of guys need touches — they need to get up and down, they need to get banged around a little bit. He just comes right in and executes. He studies it from the bench. He knows the game plan. And he very rarely makes mistakes.”
Bohannon's WFA debut
Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon had never played in downtown Des Moines before Saturday. His Linn-Mar team never made it to the state tournament that is held here. And, yes, his teammates were quick to rib him about that in pregame warmups, asking him how the court felt.
Bohannon finished with six points and six assists, cheered on by older brother Matt, who finished his playing career at Northern Iowa last spring. Matt Bohannon showed up Saturday, sporting Hawkeyes gear, a sign that the family's allegiances have shifted.
“I’ve been watching him the last four years in a UNI jersey. It was a little weird, adjusting to it,” Jordan Bohannon admitted. “But they were up there cheering for me. It was a great atmosphere.”
Bohannon looks more comfortable running the point for Iowa with each game of his freshman season. His defense is noticeably better.
“It’s all about angles, and that’s what I’ve been thinking about. I’m a pretty smart player out there, so I’ve got to use that to my advantage,” Bohannon said. “I’m probably not the quickest, but I know what my angles are and I just try to beat them to the spot.”
Freshman forward Tyler Cook has missed five games after surgery on his right index finger. The original schedule was for the team’s second-leading scorer to return Tuesday when Iowa hosts North Dakota. Saturday, McCaffery said that timetable might be a bit premature.
He said Cook will visit the doctor again this week and may or may not play Tuesday or Thursday against Delaware State. It’s likely that the Hawkeyes will hold Cook out of action until the Dec. 28 Big Ten Conference opener at Purdue.
Cook’s spot in the starting lineup has been taken over by Pemsl. McCaffery doesn’t anticipate any problem working him back into the rotation, however.
“He’ll assimilate just fine,” McCaffery said.