Everything seemed just a bit off for Iowa tonight. Decent jump shots rattled out, fouls bugged the Hawkeyes, Pepperdine stuck around in a way mid-major teams usually don't... heck, Jarrod Uthoff even struggled from the line. It wasn't pretty. And yet sometimes you win those games anyway. And sure enough, Iowa won Monday night, 72-61.
When the Hawkeyes' shots fell, they looked comfortably better than the Waves, and the most effective shooters on the night were a pair of unlikely candidates: guards Anthony Clemmons and Mike Gesell, who combined for 23 points on 7-12 shooting, including 5-6 from behind the arc. Gesell and Clemmons struggled badly in last week's two-loss run through the 2K Classic, and the blueprint for beating the Hawkeyes looked to have been charted out pretty well in New York: clog the lane and make the guards beat you. And while neither were exactly the main scoring engine after halftime, the cushion Iowa was able to build early off those points helped the Hawkeyes stay in front when the shooting started to cool off.
Unsurprisingly, Aaron White topped Iowa with 17 points, which tied with Pepperdine's Shawn Olden to lead all scorers for the game. White had five buckets at the rim, including a ferocious dunk on an alley-oop from Peter Jok, and he hit five of six free throws down the stretch to finish off Iowa's scoring and keep the Waves safely away from ever making this a ball game.
This was another rather sparse day of action for the Hawkeye bench (aside from Gabriel Olaseni, who continues to be one of the five best players on the roster), and the bench mob didn't make it tough for Fran McCaffery to keep them off the floor. Josh Oglesby, Peter Jok and Trey Dickinson combined for a wretched 1-13 performance from the floor, and while we're happy to see those guys contribute six assists to only one turnover, the shooting does reinforce the notion that McCaffery doesn't have a whole lot of options in his backcourt at the moment. There's no sugar-coating Oglesby's numbers right now: 7-32 from the field and 5-23 for three. That's rough. Oglesby is still a valued ball-handler and perimeter defender, and we don't expect his minutes to be cut any time soon, but the sooner he can shoot his way out of this slump the better—Iowa badly needs him as an offensive threat in the backcourt this season.
It's fair to look at Pepperdine and say "ugh, an 11-point win against a rinky-dinker, not great," and maybe in a vacuum that makes sense, but this wasn't supposed to be a blowout. The KenPom projections had Iowa averaging out as an 82-69 victor with 87% win expectancy. Further, Pepperdine came into the game as the No. 132 team in the KenPom rankings, and if that sounds like a cupcake win, please consider that Eastern Washington was 19 spots lower at No. 151, and it just went into Bloomington and beat Indiana.
Even with Iowa shooting just 41% from the field and 67% from the line, and even with the Hawkeyes' first double-digit lead not coming until 14 minutes were left in the game, and even with an opponent on the court that has some small capability of beating a Big Ten squad, Iowa still pulled out a double-digit victory. No need to take that for granted. Onward and upward.