Iowa shows some Big Ten toughness to knock off No. 12 Texas Tech
LAS VEGAS — The snapshots that will linger from Iowa's bare-knuckle victory over Texas Tech on Thursday:
- Hawkeye senior point guard Jordan Bohannon pausing after each of his four 3-pointers to leave that valuable shooting hand dangling in the air. It's one thing to punish an opponent for leaving you slightly unguarded. It's another thing to make sure they know it.
- Luka Garza's stitched upper lip, the result of an inadvertent elbow the Iowa center took while scrapping under the basket. It left him with blood pooling on his face. It required four stitches. He smiled through it all.
- A short, bright gash on the bridge of C.J. Fredrick's nose. It was a red badge of encouragement for Iowa's redshirt freshman shooting guard, a reminder that he'd made the biggest shot of the evening in the biggest moment of his young career.
This was the punishing game Iowa knew was in store. The Hawkeyes practiced all week to stand up to Texas Tech's brute style of play. And then went out and out-bruted them in the semifinal of the Las Vegas Invitational at Orleans Arena.
Iowa 72, No. 12 Texas Tech 61.
"I told them right before we went out on the court, 'Listen, we play in the Big Ten. We need to be the more physical team (Thursday). We all know what we're capable of doing,'" Bohannon told his teammates before the game.
When it was over, Bohannon had 20 points in a season-high 33 minutes. He made all eight of his free throws down the stretch to preserve the first quality win of the season for Iowa (5-1).
Texas Tech (5-1) was the national runner-up a year ago, but this is practically an entirely new team. The Red Raiders hadn't been pushed yet this season. And Iowa pushed them all the way into the third-place game in this tournament.
"That was just kind of our mindset when we came out (Thursday), was to go right at them and take the physicality to them, which they're not used to," said Garza, who finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds, two blocked shots and the four stitches.
Garza also had a bloody nose in the first half. He has been known to compare basketball to boxing. He looked like he'd just survived a prize fight.
"It's why I signed up to play in the Big Ten. They call it the black-and-blue league for a reason," Garza said. "That's the basketball I love to play. It's physical. It's aggressive. You're getting hit. You're bleeding. It's just like a boxing match.
"We showed them, they're physical. But we're in the Big Ten, so we know what all that's about."
Iowa came out in a hyper-aggressive man-to-man defense and seemed to startle Texas Tech. The Red Raiders committed eight first-half turnovers while shooting 38% from the field.
In the second half, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery moved to a 2-3 zone, and that was equally effective. The Red Raiders committed only three turnovers after intermission, but their shooting percentage plummeted to 28%.
"Anything short of that and you were going to get carved up," McCaffery said of defending the Red Raiders.
"You can't play that team and not be physical. You would just get manhandled. The important thing is to compete with that level of physicality and be able to control your emotions. Try to not lose your composure."
McCaffery inserted Bohannon into the starting lineup for the first time this season. A three-year starter at point guard, Bohannon had been averaging 19 minutes per game this season after while coming back from May hip surgery. Bohannon replaced power forward Jack Nunge, who is out after an ACL tear.
The impact was immediate. Bohannon injected the team with a jolt of confidence, swagger even. It was reminiscent of what Iowa did a year ago in defeating Oregon and Connecticut in Madison Square Garden to win the Empire Classic.
"He's our leader," Fredrick said. "He knocks down big shots, makes free throws."
Fredrick, though, had the shot of the game for Iowa. Texas Tech had cut a 10-point halftime lead to two when Bohannon fired up a contested 3-pointer that was well off the mark. Forward Cordell Pemsl hustled along the baseline to retrieve the basketball, and spotted Fredrick at the left elbow.
Fredrick was well-guarded, but didn't hesitate to rise up for the 3-pointer that put Iowa back in command for good.
"Shoutout to Cordell. If he doesn't fight for that rebound, I don't get the shot," Fredrick said. "I kind of looked at him and I knew he was going to throw it to me. And I knew there was about 5 seconds left on the shot clock, so I knew I was going to fire.
"I had a good feeling that one was going in."
Fredrick followed with a pair of free throws. He finished with 10 points.
While Bohannon and Fredrick took care of easing any late-game drama, it was Iowa sophomore Joe Wieskamp who provided the early cushion. The Hawkeyes were feeding him early, and Wieskamp missed his first two shots.
But he didn't stop. The next one went in. By halftime, he had 13 of his 16 points.
Last November, Wieskamp went 1-for-8 in the two games at Madison Square Garden. He admitted Thursday that the freshman version of himself would have likely grown too discouraged to keep shooting.
"I think last year if I'd have missed a few shots, I'd kind of shy away," Wieskamp said. "That's one of the biggest steps that I have to take this year. I know I'm going to struggle some games. I'm going to miss a few shots. But I've got to continue to be aggressive and effect the game in other ways, too."
Shying away has never been an issue for Bohannon. He said he was antsy to get this game tipped off ever since McCaffery told him Monday that was going to get the starting nod. McCaffery told him: "Just do what you do."
That's all Bohannon needed to hear.
"I didn't get a lot of sleep Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, because these games are what I live for, playing in this type of environment," Bohannon said of a game that felt as if it were being contested in March, not November.
"I love to have the ball in my hands late game and try to make something happen."
Iowa plays San Diego State (8-0) in the championship game at 7 p.m. Friday.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.
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