The most anticipated Iowa men’s basketball season in quite a while tipped off Friday at the ridiculously late time of 8:42 p.m. and with the quarterfinal round of the high school football playoffs going on at the same time.
Five years ago, that would have been a recipe for disaster at Carver-Hawkeye Arena with the program and the fan base unraveling under then coach Todd Lickliter.
It had little effect Friday night because Hawkeye fans had been counting the days, maybe even the hours, until the season opener.
The game went pretty much as expected with Iowa bolting to an early lead and then cruising to an 82-39 victory before an announced crowd of 15,293 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It was Iowa’s highest attendance for a home opener since 2001.
The Seahawks, coached by former North Carolina guard Buzz Peterson, had no answer for Iowa’s vast firepower. And that’s how it should be if this Iowa team truly is poised to make the NCAA Tournament in Fran McCaffery’s fourth season as coach.
Freshman guard Peter Jok made his first basket as a Hawkeye — a 3-pointer from the right baseline — to give Iowa 23-4 lead with 8 minutes 49 seconds left in the first half. The 6-foot-6 Jok figures to play a bigger role now that sophomore shooting guard Josh Oglesby is expected to miss six weeks with a broken foot.
Iowa’s other newcomer, 6-9 Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff, also should play a key role this season — we saw why Friday. Uthoff led Iowa with nine points in the first half and finished with a team-high 14 points.
McCaffery used 10 players in the first half and all 10 scored at least one point before halftime, which had Iowa leading 48-12. Nine of the 10 players also had at least one rebound in the first half.
McCaffery was upset with his team’s performance in the exhibition game Sunday and his players responded to his challenge by taking care of business Friday.
A testimony to Iowa’s dominance in the first half was that it had more blocks (seven) than the Seahawks had baskets (five).
It was hard not to feel sorry for the Seahawks as Iowa’s lead climbed to 44 points in the second half. McCaffery substituted freely throughout the game, but it didn’t matter because his rotation goes 10 deep. Iowa’s second five — Jok, Uthoff, senior forward Zach McCabe, junior center Gabe Olaseni and sophomore point guard Anthony Clemmons — was as equally dominant as the starters. The 6-10 Olaseni had five of Iowa’s seven blocks in the first half.
Many of the fans had left by the time Friday’s game ended, which is understandable because it was close to 10:30 p.m. when the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Winning 25 games and finishing runner-up to a talented Baylor squad in the NIT last season was a significant step forward for the Iowa program.
Now it’s just a matter of taking the next step. Friday’s beatdown was the first little step in that process.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball