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Luka Garza and Tyler Cook led the way in each half to seal the get the Hawks the 2k Empire Classic win

NCAA Basketball: Empire Classic-Connecticut vs Iowa Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0) once again looked dominant in a 91-72 victory over the Connecticut Huskies (3-1) to win the 2k Empire Classic. The win marks the first time Iowa has been 4-0 since 2014, when they started the season on a seven-game winning streak.

It was a tale of two halves being that the first half was dominated by Luka Garza’s inside-out game and the second was owned by Tyler Cook’s presence. Garza raced to 18 points in the opening frame. He hit a couple threes, including one where Iowa ran a set to get him a clean look from the corner - one of Iowa’s four threes on 13 attempts. Garza finished with 22 points on 7/15 shooting. He and Cook tied the Huskies point total going into the break with a lead of 43-27.

In the second half, Cook added 17 of his own for 26 on the game and showed impressive endurance, as his only break occurred for about two minutes in the middle of the second half. He did it a number of ways, and while his turnovers continue to mount with him on the perimeter, the risk seems worth the reward at this juncture in the season.

Iowa didn’t avoid the foul trouble they saw in their first game in New York City, as Jordan Bohannon was forced to the sidelines just 1:29 into the first half. His absence allowed Connor McCaffery to shine as he finished with 19 points. McCaffery was able to penetrate the UConn defense with regularity and was able to finish, dish, and get to the line. He had a game high five assists and 11 free throw attempts, making nine.

Do concerns remain?

Absolutely. Iowa sputtered the opening 5 minutes or so, but the choppy nature of the game and their defense did not let the game get out of hand. Iowa gained the lead at 5-4 with 16:01 left in the first half and never gave it back.

The depth is a sneaky concern. Of course, Pemsl is out with an injury, but having Tyler Cook go 38 minutes a game is more than Fran McCaffery would probably like to put on his odometer. Connor came up with what looked like a lower leg injury with about five minutes left in the game. He’s asserted himself as the lead ballhandler in my view, especially in crunch time.

The scoring distribution isn’t necessarily what we’re used to seeing but it’s kinda nice to let Jordan Bohannon be Jordan Bohannon. The threes didn’t drop tonight but they will in the future. Joe Wieskamp had a bit of a rough time in Manhattan but it’s also good to see Iowa didn’t need huge production from their highly-rated freshman in two huge early season games.

The rest of the team did what you want them to do. Moss hit Iowa’s other two threes and never looked like a liability. Baer did Baer things with six rebounds, a steal, and a block. Maishe Dailey only had a couple assists but with Connor cooking, Iowa got the guard play they needed. Ryan Kriener, a night after punking Bol Bol, decided to do the same again with a last second dunk which was definitely not cool but had a good game otherwise.*

They are concerns but they are better concerns than I had even 24 hours ago as the first game was tipping off in Madison Square Garden.

These are concerns of a team which looks like it can, and maybe should, go to the NCAA Tournament.

For that, it’s worth celebrating.

Extra Notes:

  • The jerseys warrant mentioning: I really liked them at first blush and am a big fan of the logo on the front in lieu of words. I even appreciated the HAWKEYES stitched above the numbers on the back. But the more I looked at them the more I didn’t like the extra lines or dots and the material looked super thin. There was some consensus they were practice jerseys but I remain committed to liking them.
  • Fran said Kriener asked him to apologize for the dunk publicly so he did to open his press conference.
  • Dan Hurley got ejected after repeatedly looking insane like every other college coach on the planet. The difference is that UConn fans were, more or less, praising him for his emotion. I very much look forward to Iowa fans doing the same with Fran McCaffery. Also, Syracuse fans stuck around taunting him. I speak on behalf of the Black Heart Gold Pants staff when I say we are here for that.
  • Connor McCaffery has some serious flair to his game I did not expect. At first he did the fake no-look pass on a Tyler Cook dunk but then followed it up with a real no-look pass on a dunk to Tyler Cook. My comp for him is James Harden at this juncture in time with his steadiness through traffic, especially in the lane. Also, on one pick and roll with Luka Garza, he took his and Garza’s defender about 15 feet away from the key, where Luka had a wide-open three point attempt. This kid is really good.
  • The turnovers tonight (19) were not good, and haven’t been ideal for the balance of the season. It warrants monitoring but they way most of these games have been played with Iowa up significantly for large portions, it’s probably okay. For now. Additionally, we’ve seen a little more iso-ball the last couple games. Again, probably not a problem, but I’ll continue to monitor since they normally assist on a high rate of baskets under Fran. (currently at 59.4% and 69th in the country according to KenPom $)
  • Is four games officially time to declare the free throws a thing? They’re getting to the line at a rate unlike any Power 6 team ($) at .732 free throws-to-field goal attempts. They’re also draining 78.4% of them which is top 30 in the country.