Jok takes over in overtime to lead Iowa to a win
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Peter Jok is no free-throw aficionado.
He doesn't think about them, doesn't study the form of the best shooters in the world, doesn't look at the national leader board. Even after breaking a 55-year-old Iowa record for his work at the charity stripe Tuesday, Jok didn't really want to talk about it.
"Yeah, it's impressive," Jok said when informed of his new spot in Hawkeye history. "I don't really care about all that. I just care about winning right now."
Of course, it was Jok's free throws that enabled the Hawkeyes to taste victory for the first time in four games. He made 22 of them — including 11 in overtime — as Iowa outlasted Indiana 96-90 before an announced crowd of 11,372 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
That broke a record Don Nelson had set in 1962 when he made 21, also against Indiana. That game resulted in a Hawkeyes loss, however.
Jok wasn't going to let Iowa come up empty in this one.
"I wanted the ball in my hands because I felt like I had a mismatch, pretty much the whole game, but in that stretch, I just wanted to get to the free-throw line as much as I can," Jok said. "I didn't shoot that well, I didn't feel like (1-for-6 from 3-point range), so I just wanted to get to the free-throw line."
The officials were happy to oblige. Indiana (15-13, 5-10 Big Ten Conference) was whistled for 35 fouls and saw four players disqualified late in regulation and in overtime. Iowa (15-13, 7-8) made them pay, making 39 of 47 from the line.
"They weren't the most aggressive team that I faced," Jok said of Indiana. "The referees did a really good job the way they was kind of guarding me. The refs did a great job calling fouls."
Jok finished with 35 points despite not even attempting a shot in the game's first 10 minutes. It was the most he's scored in a league game this season.
The start of the game was the most bizarre Iowa had seen this season. Indiana breezed to a 9-0 lead in the first 2 minutes, 10 seconds, prompting Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery to take a timeout and insert five new players. Before the first media timeout, he had tried two more players, using 12 to try to find some spark.
"We needed some energy," McCaffery said. "We just didn't answer the bell. So that next group came in and played with great energy and cohesion, and got the crowd involved. Then the other guys came in and picked us up after that."
Indiana had a 17-4 lead before Iowa started to turn things around. The Hoosiers helped the cause by committing 22 turnovers that became 25 Hawkeye points.
Still, Iowa could never seem to grab a lead. That changed with 2:13 left when Christian Williams and Tyler Cook charged out in transition, Cook flushing a perfect Williams' alley-oop pass to put Iowa on top 72-71.
Cook finished with 14 points and Williams added a career-high 10.
Regulation ended in a 75-75 tie. Jok took over from there, scoring Iowa's first 11 points in the extra session, seven of them on free throws. He is a 93-percent marksman from the stripe, and said he never even thinks about it, just takes his one dribble and lets loose. He also said he never expects to miss.
"I think it's a mental thing. Anytime I get on the free-throw line, it's free points. I just want those free points," Jok said. "The way teams guard me, when I get to the free-throw line, that's the easiest shot I can get, so I try not to miss. I get mad at myself if I miss."
He missed only once Tuesday.
Jok may not give it much thought, but McCaffery knows how rare his star's shooting stroke is.
"His form is textbook. He's got great confidence in it. But when it comes off his hands so nicely, and he shoots it the same way every time," McCaffery said. "Everything you've ever heard a shooting coach talk about — his follow-through, where he puts his hands, his elbow — I mean, it's perfection."
The Hoosiers began the year with victories over Kansas and North Carolina, but have faded badly in Big Ten play. Tuesday's loss was their seventh in the past eight games.
Iowa's victory was huge as it attempts to stay out of the bottom four of the Big Ten standings, which would force it to play another game in the Big Ten tournament starting March 8 in Washington, D.C.
That's where Jok, the league's leading scorer at 20.4 points per game entering play, will be needed to carry a young Hawkeyes team some more. He has been battling a sore shoulder, and putting up a Carver-Hawkeye Arena record 23 free throws didn't help it much.
"I've got to manage my shoulder — not overwork it. I haven't been working on my shot as much as I would like," Jok admitted.
"It was tight most of the game."
Iowa next plays at Maryland on Saturday.