Jok struggles, but looks forward to NIT and Iowa's future

Mark Emmert

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Peter Jok’s Iowa basketball career didn’t end Thursday, but his shot at finally winning a game in the Big Ten Conference Tournament did.

Four trips, four quick exits, this time 95-73 at the hands of Indiana.

The Hawkeye senior star scored only two of his nine points after halftime, when the Hoosiers took control, and made just one of his six 3-point shot attempts.

Peter Jok and the Iowa Hawkeyes were no match for Robert Johnson's Indiana Hoosiers on Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament. Jok scored only nine points, but said he is bullish on the young Iowa team's future.

When Iowa beat Indiana in overtime at home two weeks ago, Jok went to the free-throw line an incredible 23 times, and made a school-record 22 of them. On a dispiriting evening at the Verizon Center, Jok attempted no free throws.

“They didn’t try to foul me, but they were trying to make sure everything was hard to get,” Jok said of the difference in the Hoosiers’ defense. “I could hear their coach (Tom Crean) yelling, ‘Don’t let him touch the ball.’ And they were just talking to each other the whole night. I thought they were just as a team really locked in on me (Thursday) better than last time.”

Jok wasn’t the only Hawkeye stalwart who couldn’t get going. Nicholas Baer scored only three points, and those came late in the game. The sophomore was named the Big Ten's sixth man of the year earlier in the week. He scored a career-high 20 points Sunday in a win over Penn State.

“I didn’t get off to a good start,” Baer said of his seven first-half minutes. “But I think Indiana did a really good job guarding us. They understood personnel really well and it was just a little bit difficult to get a flow for the game.”

So now the Hawkeyes (18-14) must wait until Sunday night to learn their postseason fate. The players spoke as if they were still holding out hope for an NCAA Tournament bid, but that possibility likely ended with Thursday’s defeat. Instead, it will come down to whether the Hawkeyes are selected as one of the 16 teams that get to host a first-round National Invitation Tournament game. The school has put in a bid to play at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“We’ll be together on Sunday and be hoping that possibly the (NCAA selection) committee gets us in, but we’re not going to just sit around and wait for an answer,” Iowa freshman Cordell Pemsl said.

“We knew we probably needed this one to make the NCAA Tournament. Regardless, we just want to come out and show that we’re a team capable of making a run.”

Jok, who tentatively bid farewell to Carver-Hawkeye on Sunday, said he is looking forward to at least one more game, and then to seeing what the young Hawkeyes do in future years.

“I wouldn’t say a disappointment,” he said of his first March spent not playing in the NCAA Tournament. “Our goal was to make it to the NCAA (tournament). But personally I’m just really proud of the young guys for staying together and staying as a group and staying positive all year.

“If we end up playing in the NIT it is what it is. Because it will prepare them for next year and they’ve got a bright future. For sure, next year they’re going to be playing in the NCAA.”