Brown: Unselfish Uthoff's shooting touch keys Iowa win

Rick Brown
Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff drives to the hoop during the Hawkeyes' game against Western Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday.

IOWA CITY, Ia.  — Jarrod Uthoff knows something about getting on a hot streak. In the zone, if you will.

He recalled the time he and his father, Dale, went fishing for catfish on the Iowa River. They maneuvered their canoe into a good spot, and dropped several lines into the water.

“Within two minutes, all the lines had fish on them,” Uthoff said.

On Monday, Uthoff got hot again. And it didn’t even take two minutes. He nailed three straight 3-pointers in an 80-second flurry in the first half and finished with a career-high 27 points in Iowa’s 90-56 victory over Western Illinois.

“When you’re in a zone, you don’t even think about it,” Uthoff said. “You just know they’re in. It’s special. For a basketball player, those are moments you cherish.”

Uthoff was a marked man on the Western Illinois scouting report. He was fouled five times in the game’s first 5 minutes after beating his man off the dribble.

“They kept coming at me,” the 6-foot-9 senior forward said. “When you sense that, you rip and drive. I think that spurred my confidence, too.”

Uthoff made nine of his first 12 field-goal attempts, including all four 3-pointers, and had 24 points at halftime. He played only 6 minutes of the second half as coach Fran McCaffery used the one-sided game to get his bench some much-needed experience.

Dom Uhl took advantage of the opportunity, scoring 15 points in 19 minutes against a Western Illinois team that won at Wisconsin in the season opener, 69-67.

Last week, McCaffery said he wanted Uthoff to be more aggressive on offense and take more than the 13.1 shots per game he’s averaging. Uthoff took 14 shots in the first half Monday, 16 for the game. That ties the second-most attempts he’s had as a collegian.

Uthoff squeezed off those shots in 23 minutes Monday. He took 16 shots in 35 minutes against Michigan State at home last season, and 16 in 37 minutes at Northwestern. He attempted a career-high 19 shots in 38 minutes against Gonzaga in last season’s NCAA Tournament round-of-32 game.

“I kind of wanted to leave him out there, let him take 25 shots,” McCaffery said. “But once we got on a little run, and got it to 25, I wasn’t going to do that.”

That was fine with Uthoff, who also had nine rebounds, an assist and no turnovers.

“I wasn’t concerned with how many points I scored,” Uthoff said. “I never am.”

Center Adam Woodbury was the recipient of that one assist Monday. Uthoff has dished the ball to his teammate for numerous baskets this season.

“He’s capable of doing that every night out,” Woodbury said of Uthoff’s 27-point night. “But he’s such a good team guy that he wants to get everyone involved. It’s a lot of fun playing with him. He’s all about winning. He doesn’t care about stats.”

But some numbers do matter in basketball. Iowa is 7-2 heading into Thursday’s game at No. 4 Iowa State. Iowa has played a demanding schedule that is about to take a turn upward at Hilton Coliseum.

“Playing the fourth-ranked team in the country with a lot of experience,” McCaffery said. “Yeah, a lot tougher.”

Instead of fear or trepidation, the Hawkeyes are looking at this next game as an opportunity.

“It’s going to be tough,” point guard Mike Gesell said. “It’s a great atmosphere. An opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country.”

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.