Jok trying to avoid fouls as Iowa faces TCU in NIT

Mark Emmert

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Sure, Peter Jok would like to get to the free-throw line more often when Iowa hosts TCU on Sunday in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

After all, the Hawkeye senior is a 91.6 percent shooter from the stripe.

But Jok told reporters Friday that he’s more concerned with staying on the right side of the referees, who are calling things more closely in the NIT.

Iowa's Peter Jok shoots a 3-pointer against South Dakota on Wednesday. The senior star made three of his six attempts from long distance, but was upset that he could only play 27 minutes due to foul trouble.

“I’ve got to stay back next game and try to be careful about how I play defense, and not be overly physical against them,” Jok said. “Because the refs have been calling really touchy fouls, especially coming from the Big Ten to playing in the NIT.”

Jok scored 20 points in Iowa’s first-round win over South Dakota on Wednesday. But he played only 27 minutes after being whistled for two fouls in each half. He committed seven fouls total in his previous four games.

Jok leads Iowa with 167 free throws attempted, but didn’t get his first crack at one until 52 seconds remained in the South Dakota game. More surprisingly, he missed that initial attempt before recovering to make his next three and seal an 87-75 win.

“Now we know what to expect with all the new rules. They were calling a lot of touchy, touchy fouls,” Jok said of the NIT’s experiment.

The tournament, run by the NCAA, has eliminated any 1-and-1 free-throw situations, making all fouls two shots. But teams don’t enter the bonus until the fifth foul of each 10-minute segment.

“I liked (the rules), but at the same time I was in and out of the lineup just because I was in foul trouble. I didn’t really get to use it to my advantage and get to the foul line as much as I wanted to,” Jok said.

Still, he doesn’t anticipate aggressively trying to get to the line against fourth-seeded TCU (20-15). Tipoff is at 4 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN2. Iowa officials said Friday that tickets are nearly sold out.

“I’m going to let the game come to me. I’m not going to try to force anything,” Jok said in his familiar refrain. “But I know they’re going to try to be physical. They’re a pretty good help-side defensive team.”

Iowa (19-14), the top seed, has made 56 3-pointers in its past five games while shooting them at a 48.7 percent clip. Jok, the team’s leading scorer at 19.8 points per game, is 12-for-26 in that stretch. He has made 79 3-pointers on the season, second on the team to Jordan Bohannon’s 82.

His shooting has been impressive enough that he was invited to participate in the 3-point contest as part of the NCAA’s Final Four festivities in Phoenix on March 30. That’s the same night that the NIT title game will be played in New York’s famed Madison Square Garden. So it’s the tournament, not the individual contest, that has Jok’s attention.

“I’m just focused on the NIT and trying to win it all,” Jok said. “It’s a great accomplishment (to be chosen for the 3-point contest). I want to shoot in it, but right now I’m not focused on it at all.”

But could he win it?

“I feel like I’m the best 3-point shooter,” Jok said.