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IOWA 76, GARDNER-WEBB 59: THAT'S MORE LIKE IT

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Iowa gets the season started the right way: with a win. Not every Big Ten team could say that tonight.

NOT IN UTHOFF'S HOUSE
NOT IN UTHOFF'S HOUSE
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

After the result last Friday and after what happened to Illinois (lol) and Wisconsin (LOLOLOLOL) earlier tonight, just getting the right result tonight (a win for the good guys) was good.  Even better?  There were some promising things to take away from tonight's performance that hopefully bode well for the future.

A few years ago, Gardner-Webb came into CHA and bushwhacked the Hawkeyes from the start, opening up a huge lead and requiring a massive Iowa comeback (the biggest statistical comeback in Iowa history, if memory serves) to come away with a win.  This win over the Runnin' Bulldogs was a bit easier, although it didn't necessarily start that.  Iowa led just 41-37 at the break and things looked nervy.  But Iowa ramped up the defensive effort in the second half and the Gardner-Webb offense fell off a cliff -- after scoring 37 points on 42.4% shooting in the first half, they scored just 22 points on miserable 18.5% shooting in the second half.  They made just 5 field goals in the entire second half. Iowa's shooting dipped in the second half as well, but not so precipitously -- they went from draining 44% of their shots in the opening half to 37.5% in the second half and posted 35 points to pull away (thanks in part to improved three-point shooting -- they made 2/9 in the first half and 5/15 in the second half).

A week after Iowa rode their seniors (and Peter Jok) hard in a loss against Augusta, tonight's win featured a much wider distribution of minutes. In all, 13 players saw the court in this game, including two walk-ons (Nicholas Baer, who has played and will continue to play important minutes for this team, especially given their lack of depth in the post, and Okey Ukah). The only scholarship players to not see the court were Isaiah Moss (expected, since Fran announced last week that he would be redshirting) and Brandon Hutton (I think we can pencil him in for a redshirt next to Moss). Nine different Hawkeyes played at least 9 minutes in the game and only one (Anthony Clemmons) played more than 30 minutes (33).  Clemmons' increased playing time was likely a direct result of Peter Jok suffering a leg injury and only logging ten minutes of action (he returned at the end of the game in a walking boot, though Fran didn't think his injury was severe).

Iowa got quality contributions from several reserves tonight (another marked change from the Augustana game), led by Ahmad Wagner, who tallied 6 points and a team-high 8 rebounds in just 9 minutes of action.  He, uh, might need to see more playing time if he can maintain that level of productivity. Six of Wagner's boards came on the offensive glass and for one night at least, he helped fill what had been a critical void for Iowa.  Replacing Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni will be a tough task this season, but Wagner appears to be a player very well-equipped to help replace some of their crucial production.  Dale Jones and 3 points and 4 rebounds in 10 minutes and Nicholas Baer came off the bench to add 6 points (on 2/2 shooting from deep!), a rebound, an assist, and a steal in his 13 minutes.  Dom Uhl, a forgotten man a week ago, had a nice bounce-back effort, too, filling the stat sheet with 6 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks in 19 minutes on the court.  His complete no-show last week was alarming, so it's nice to see him bounce back so strongly here.

Also bouncing back strongly after a poor performance?  Jarrod Uthoff, who led the team with 21 points (on 6/12 shooting) in his 26 minutes of action.  He was active in other areas, too, grabbing 6 rebounds, logging 2 blocks, and swiping a pair of steals.  Uthoff seemed overly passive and disengaged in Iowa's exhibition games, but he seemed to play with far more aggression in this game.  Most encouraging was how he scored his points -- in a wide variety of ways.  Instead of just hoisting long jumpers, he scored from deep, he scored at the free throw line (he was was 7/7 and as a team Iowa was 21/28 -- very good to see them getting back to the line so much), he scored off tip-in dunks, and he scored in the paint.  More of that please, Jarrod -- much, much more of that.

This was just Gardner-Webb (KenPom's #254 team), so we certainly shouldn't get carried away about anything after this win.  But Iowa got a win that was never really in doubt in the second half, picked up contributions from players up and down the roster, and satisfactorily addressed several issues that had looked problematic.  This was a fine way to tip off a tremendous Iowa sports weekend (the Iowa women also won, 83-61, over North Dakota).  Iowa returns to action on Sunday afternoon (at 4 PM CT) against Coppin State.