Iowa takeaways: Jok's scorer's mentality, Pemsl's bumpy outing

Mark Emmert

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Lost in the hubbub of Iowa’s “no-handshake” victory over North Dakota on Tuesday was the uneven performance of star guard Peter Jok.

The Hawkeye senior was held without a 3-point basket for the first time in 31 games. He made only four of 15 shots overall. He sat for 8 minutes with foul trouble, picking up a fourth late in the game on a ridiculously careless play.

And yet …

Peter Jok is doing much more than shoot for Iowa this season, as evidenced by this play, when the senior guard guard battled North Dakota post player Conner Avants (32) for a rebound Tuesday. Jok grabbed eight boards in the Hawkeyes' 84-73 win.

The story of Iowa’s 84-73 victory has to be Jok’s maturation.

It showed up in his shot selection. After a 2-for-9 performance in the opening half, which included no trips to the free-throw line, Jok came out after intermission determined to take advantage of the mugging he was absorbing at the active hands of the Fighting Hawks. He got to the line 10 times, and made them all, showing the mentality of an NBA scorer: Get your points by any means necessary.

It’s that mindset that has Jok atop the Big Ten Conference in scoring at 23.1 points per game. It’s that mindset that figures to keep him at that level. If your shots aren’t falling, make them foul you.

“A few years ago, I would have kept shooting,” Jok said. “This year, mentally-wise, it’s a different level than I’ve been the last few years.”

Jok led Iowa (7-5) with four assists and was second in rebounds with eight.

“I was trying to rebound, get people open and also assist,” he said.

Jok took the blame when the Hawkeyes’ intensity faded in and out.

“When we was losing concentration on defense, I didn’t get the guys together,” he said. “But I’m going to definitely get them ready for next game and make sure we play better defense.”

That game arrives at 8 p.m. Thursday, when an unimpressive Delaware State (3-10) visits Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the nonconference finale on the Big Ten Network.

Jok said the rugged North Dakota game, and its testy ending, was a great precursor for what’s to come.

“I’m actually glad (the Fighting Hawks) played us like this, because I’m going to tell (his teammates) that’s how the Big Ten is going to be, physical like that,” Jok said after scoring 18 points Tuesday. “They were just trying to win. We would have done the same thing, really.”

Jok now has 1,149 points to rank 29th in Hawkeye history. He passed Bob Hansen and Kevin Kunnert on Tuesday and is 19 points behind Chad Calabria.

Pemsl’s bumpy ride

Jok said there’s little he can do to help his younger teammates become better free-throw shooters. It’s all mental, and freshman forward Cordell Pemsl in particular needs to clear his mind.

Pemsl lost his starting spot Tuesday when he showed up late for the morning shootaround.

“I was not happy, because when you've got a team that is sort of putting it together, those are the kinds of distractions you don't need,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, who levied the punishment. “He has to understand that. There are no academic pressures right now. The semester's over. Nothing else to do but show up for shootaround and get there on time. He'll be on time.”

Pemsl played 24 minutes Tuesday, scoring nine points. But he was a dismal 1-for-8 on free throws, and the Hawkeyes missed 11 freebies in all. With each attempt, Pemsl’s bewilderment grew more evident. He said most of his free throws felt good coming off his fingertips before inevitably rimming out.

“It was very frustrating. It was all in my head the entire day, and it just obviously kept getting worse,” Pemsl said of his wayward free throws.

“I ought to know if I’m short on the first one I can’t be short on the second one, and I just kept doing it. I’m working on my confidence level and finishing and following through.”

On the positive side, Pemsl hustled for a career-high 11 rebounds. He was averaging 4.9 coming in.

“I knew that I’ve been slacking rebounding, so I just wanted to crash the glass more offensively and defensively and just do whatever I needed to do to get us more opportunities,” Pemsl said.

Iowa outrebounded North Dakota 41-37. Delaware State enters play being outboarded by 7.9 per game.

Ellingson’s efficiency

It had been exactly one month since reserve guard Brady Ellingson reached double-digit points for Iowa. His timing Tuesday — as most of his teammates struggled — was impeccable.

Ellingson was 4-for-5 on field goals, both of his free throws and committed no turnovers in his 18 minutes. The 10 points were big. The absence of mistakes may have been bigger for the sophomore.

“He plays the game at his pace. He moves it, he moves without it. He shoots when he's open. He throws the ball to open people when he's covered, and he's playing really good defense,” McCaffery said. “His defense is going to another level this year.”

Ellingson doesn’t start, but often finds himself on the court at the end of games when Iowa is leading. That’s because he can make his free throws and protect the ball.

As for his defense, Ellingson said: “I’m working on my athleticism and my positioning, trying to get my work done early. Going up against quicker guys, you’ve just got to be smart, move my feet.”

One final note: Stop asking about the return of freshman forward Tyler Cook.

He’s on pace to be back from his finger surgery for the Dec. 28 Big Ten opener at Purdue.

McCaffery had one word to describe Cook’s chances of playing Thursday: “Slim.”