IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa’s first basket Wednesday came courtesy of a Tyler Cook tip-in.
Cook was at it again as the clock dwindled to zero in the first half, beating the buzzer with a deft putback of a Jordan Bohannon missed layup.
It was the theme of Iowa’s 87-75 victory over South Dakota in a National Invitation Tournament opening-round game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Cook made all eight of his shots. And he did it all with barely a dribble.
“We were a little bigger than they were,” the 6-foot-9 Cook said of the Coyotes. “We just tried to catch as close to the basket, right at the rim, so we didn’t have to take any dribbles and allow the double team to come. So we just tried to catch and go right up with it, and also crash the glass for the same reason.”
It worked. Cook combined with forwards Ahmad Wagner and Cordell Pemsl to make 13 of 14 shots, making South Dakota look helpless at times to stop them.
And it wasn’t just the height of the Hawkeye post players, South Dakota coach Craig Smith said.
“The speed, the size, the length of guys. The big guys are wide bodies,” Smith said.
“I thought the lineup that hurt us the most was when they played Cook with Pemsl. Just the physicality of those guys.”
It was exactly what Iowa emphasized in its scouting report. The Hawkeyes outscored the Coyotes 40-30 in the paint, outrebounded them 37-30 and had 18 second-chance points. The size took a toll.
“We all understand what we have to do to be effective for this team,” Cook said of Iowa’s post trio. “So me and Cordell always get on each other if we’re running, make sure we’re posting right under the basket, on the block, so we don’t have to do too much work to get a shot up.”
They certainly made it look effortless Wednesday. Next up for Iowa is a TCU squad with a pair of 6-11 centers. That game will tip off at 4 p.m. Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye (ESPN2). In the meantime, here are some more takeaways from Wednesday’s win:
Wagner working hard
Wagner, a 6-7 sophomore, had six points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes. That’s not eye-opening stuff, but it’s the energy he brings at crucial times that is most beneficial to Iowa.
Six of his seven rebounds came in the second half, when the Hawkeyes pulled away. On one sequence, Wagner chased down two offensive rebounds and Cook ended up with the dunk that gave the Hawkeyes a 72-60 lead.
“That's what his game is. He's smart. He's athletic. He can guard smaller guys, bigger guys,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Wagner.
“You expect him to make that kind of impact. Especially if we're struggling offensively at any point in time, you want him to make those plays defensively and get us some second shots back.”
Bohannon at his best
Bohannon, Iowa’s freshman point guard, scored 19 points with 11 assists and only one turnover in 37 minutes. In last Thursday’s loss to Indiana in the Big Ten Conference Tournament, he had 24 points and 10 assists for his first career double-double.
There’s no question that the Linn-Mar graduate is playing his best basketball in March.
“I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable. It helps having these games under your belt, away games like at Maryland and Wisconsin. It gets you another level of confidence when you’re playing like that and when you have guys on your team that are willing to play with that same level of energy,” Bohannon said.
But it’s more than just confidence. Bohannon is starting to make terrific in-game adjustments as he gains experience. On Wednesday, that was to become more of a penetrator than a long-range shooter, forcing South Dakota to adjust to him.
“They were trying to run me off the line, so I thought I could get in the paint and score that way,” Bohannon said. “It’s just little things like that. Trying to know and evaluate the scouting report that we get every single day. And obviously I’m not the quickest guy so I have to know all the plays and try to know all the angles on defense. I try to attack it that way.”
Bohannon made 4 of 8 shots inside and didn’t attempt his first 3-pointer until 18:15 remaining. He ended up sinking 3 of 4 of those as well. Plus, he’s developing a terrific chemistry with post players like Cook and Pemsl, getting them the ball in perfect position before opposing defenses can get set.
“I told him I’m going to be running all the time,” Cook said. “Jordan does a great job of finding me when I’m open and letting me know when I’m not. I understand that he’s looking for me, I’m going to keep running and doing my part. I know he’s doing his. So I think we’re in a great rhythm right now.”
McCaffery was most impressed by the way Bohannon held up to the intense pressure the Coyotes were putting on him at the 3-point arc.
“They were trapping him as much as they could. He really had to work, especially in the first half. But he just kept going. He's really smart,” McCaffery said.
“They were up into him. He just would go. That's when you make plays for people. He got a few layups.”
Free throw watch
Senior guard Peter Jok scored 20 points to lead the Hawkeyes on Wednesday, the 28th time this season he’s reached that mark, which is right at his average.
One shot he surely regrets missing, however, is his first free throw. He made his next three, but that leaves him at 91.6 percent from the line this season, just off the pace that Steve Alford set at Indiana in 1985, when his 92.1 percent shooting set the all-time Big Ten record.
Jok will have to make his next 10 if he wants to eclipse that mark now.
On Thursday, it was announced that Jok was selected to participate in the 3-point shooting contest as part of the Final Four festivities in Phoenix. He has made 79 of them this season. That contest would potentially conflict with the NIT championship game in New York City, however, if the Hawkeyes make it that far.
Iowa’s attendance of 12,864 Wednesday was by far the largest of the NIT’s opening round. The crowd support played a large role in the win, players said. That ran McCaffery’s record to 4-0 in home NIT games while coaching at Iowa.
Tickets for the game against TCU are on sale now at a cost of $20 for adults, and $5 for youth/UI students. They can be bought at the athletic ticket office on the north side of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, by phone at 1-800-IA-HAWKS, or online at hawkeyesports.com/tickets. The ticket office windows are open daily from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m.