What's the sign of a good team? One of the signs is surely the ability to win -- and win easily -- despite not playing all that well. Iowa shot just 39.4% from the field (and it honestly seemed worse than that at times during the game), including a sadly predictable 33.3% from deep (more on that later), and just 70% from the free throw line (although if you're only going to make 70% of your free throws, it helps to shoot 40 of 'em)... and they still won by 31 points. They had 11 assists (a season-low) and only barely outrebounded Penn (44 to 41, 18 to 15 on the offensive glass), despite the fact that Penn is a pretty awful rebounding team.
So how'd they do it? Turnovers and free throws is a pretty good place to start, probably. Iowa turned the ball over 10 times... Penn turned the ball over 25 times. TWENTY-FIVE TIMES! Roy Devyn Marble had a career-high six steals to lead Iowa's merry band of pickpockets and harassers on defense. And, as noted, Iowa shot 40 free throws last night, making 28 of them. Penn made just 10/16 free throws, so the Hawkeyes made almost twice as many free throws as Penn attempted -- that's a winning formula more often than not. (Iowa's ability to get to the line has been impressive all season and -- to some extent -- mitigated their still-underwhelming three-point shooting. Hopefully it keeps up as the quality of the opposition ramps up.)
While Iowa as a team didn't have their sharpest game, that wasn't true of every Iowa player -- Jarrod Uthoff (or "Jerry" as the abysmal BTN announce crew referred to him as) had a superb game: 19 points on 6/7 shooting in 21 minutes, including a made three-pointer and a perfect 6/6 from the charity stripe. (Sidenote: given RDM's slight dip in form from the free throw line this year -- he's making only 76% of his attempts -- I hope Uthoff, currently making 91% of his free throws this season, replaces him as Iowa's preferred free throw shooter at the end of games; it helps that he's also a strong enough ballhandler to have the ball in late-game situations, too.) He tacked on 4 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a block in those 21 minutes -- in other words, yet another impressive all-around performance. With each game like this, Uthoff makes the considerable buzz that has surrounded him since arriving at Iowa seem less like mere hyperbole and more like well-deserved acclaim. I mean... does this surprise anyone?
Last one for you: Player with the best individual +/- through 5 games? Uthoff. +119, including a +31 tonight (and Iowa won by 31, BTW).— Brendan Stiles (@thebstiles) November 23, 2013
Oh, and he did this, which was pretty cool:
As for the game itself, Iowa labored at the beginning of the game, trading shots (and a lot of misses) with Penn, before using a 15-2 run at the end of the half to blow the game wide open and take a 48-27 lead into the break. Penn was the sharper team at the start of the second half, opening with a 9-1 run to chip away at Iowa's lead, but the game was never really in doubt. Iowa quickly got the lead back up to 20 points and it stayed around that level for most of the remainder of the game, even rising to a 30-point lead at one point.
Again, this certainly wasn't Iowa's sharpest performance of the season -- it was probably their weakest performance of the year, in fact, give or take the Nebraska-Omaha game -- but they still cruised to a pretty easy win. I think we'll take that. This game marks the end of Iowa's run of cupcake opponents (although there are a few more lurking in December, too); the competition is going to improve in a big, big way with the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament next week, followed by a visit from Notre Dame, and a massive-looking road game against Iowa State. Iowa will need it play better than they did in this game if they want to secure wins in those games, but I'm just excited to finally get a chance to see how they measure up against legitimate competition.
A few other thoughts:
- Jok v. Jok was one of the dominant subplots of the build-up to the game, but it didn't amount to much in the game itself. Peter Jok played 14 minutes, while Dau Jok played 15 minutes, though neither spent much time guarding the other. Peter Jok certainly won the battle on the stat sheet: 8 points on 2/4 shooting (1/2 from long range, 3/4 from the free throw line) and 1 rebound. Dau Jok went 0/6 from the field, although he did contribute a few rebounds. Still, I'm sure it was a thrill for the Jok brothers to have a chance to play against one another.
- It was Melsahn Basabe bobblehead night, but Mel-sizzle didn't exactly $lime the box score: 5 points (on 1/5 shooting), 6 rebounds, 1 steal. Maybe he was just exhausted from having to be everyone on the court:
Oh, ok. pic.twitter.com/5pQC4UIy1S— Matthew (@mhays83) November 23, 2013
- Mike Gesell (or the Mike Gesell lookalike named Melsahn Basabe) had a great start to the game, but he finished with 10 points on 4/10 shooting (2/6 from deep), along with a pair of assists and steals. He's had some great spurts during games this year, but he's yet to put together a truly great performance.
- Strange game for RDM. The six steals were good and his 13 points were second-best on the team, but they came on 4/13 shooting (1/5 from deep), and was just 4/7 from the free throw line. Then again, he did have a brilliant game against Abilene Christian the other day, so he's probably allowed a slightly off night.
- Uthoff was the star of the show, but the entire Iowa bench came up huge last night. They outscored the starters (45 to 41), with Jok (8), Olaseni (8), and Clemmons (7) all chipping in solid figures. It will be interesting to see if Fran entertains ideas of tinkering with the starting lineup.
- It was a bad night all around for the BTN crew. In addition to the Basabe on-screen gaffe above, the broadcast team (who were calling the game from a studio in Chicago -- never a satisfying experience) were fairly dreadful, mispronouncing names left and right and engaging in lots of stilted, awkward calls. Oh, and apparently Fran McCaffery coaches the Iowa Badgers now:
- LONDON SLAMMING
(Photo credit: Tyler Finchum, The Daily Iowan)
(Thanks again to our friends at The Daily Iowan for sharing their photos with us.)