To no one’s surprise, Iowa did all they could to attack the interior of Western Carolina’s defense to start the game. They made a concerted effort to get Luka Garza involved as they looked to get him the ball the first three possessions of the game and he got an offensive rebound on the fourth. His five points helped Iowa amass a 9-4 lead early.
The Catamounts would not go quietly, as whenever they didn’t turn over the ball, they were pretty good at hitting shots. Two straight threes put them up 10-9 before a Joe Wieskamp three-point-play gave Iowa the lead for good.
In addition to Wieskamp and Garza’s 17 combined points in the first half, Tyler Cook added 9 and Isaiah Moss had a quiet 7 to give Iowa a 48-29 lead at the break.
Western Carolina resembled a low major 2017-18 Iowa Hawkeyes throughout much of the game, as they showed pretty skilled offense when they were not turning the ball over. In the first half, especially, they shot 11/17 (64.7%) and 4/6 from deep. Unfortunately, they had one more turnover (15) than balls go through the basket (14 with three free throws). Their backcourt of Matt Halvorsen and Kameron Gibson combined for 18.
Iowa came out of halftime gunning and outscored the Catamounts 15-9 in eight-plus minutes. Tyler Cook was especially aggressive, as he scored seven points during that time, sinking 5/6 free throws. Garza added six points himself. The duo finished with 18 and 15, respectively.
At that time, Cook came out and it was actually Iowa’s defense which saw a bit of a drop-off. The lineup of Connor McCaffery, Jordan Bohannon, Maishe Dailey, Nicholas Baer, and Luka Garza was outscored 13-7 during a little over five minutes of gameplay. It was Iowa’s only lineup of note which saw the lead decimate during the game, as Cook came back in with a 19-point lead and 4:30 left.
The Catamounts deserve a good amount of credit. They didn’t pack it in and were able to have a good showing in a placid Carver-Hawkeye Arena - the loudest cheer was win a fan hit a half court shot midway through the second half. Iowa showed good defense plenty of times, forcing a fair share of shot clock violations in addition to the often unforced turnovers from Western Carolina. They also showed a lack of detail at times and played 22-25 seconds of really good defense before the Catamounts found an open shot or Iowa bailed them out with a foul, including two from three-point range.
But, a win is a win and having some stuff to improve in an otherwise easy win isn’t a horrible way to leave a buy game.
- Sometimes it is just about making shots: Iowa beat WCU at the free throw line 27-11 for the large majority of the 18-point lead the game finished at. It’ll happen when they shoot just 5/18 from three - nobody made more than one - and 46.9% from the field overall. The Catamounts shot 48.8%/43.8%/61.1% (FG/3P/FT) on the night. In other words, it felt like 78 points was the absolute minimum Iowa could have scored tonight.
- Is it concerning that Iowa won by the margin despite having 16 LESS turnovers (26 to 10) than WCU? I’m honestly not sure. In good news, though, the Hawks assisted on 15 of the 23 made shots they did have.
- Frontline depth is officially a concern if Ryan Kriener’s tweaked leg - he limped off halfway through the second half - turns out to be more than that. Cook had to play 32 minutes and led the team by more than 7 minutes.
- Maybe just me, but it was kinda cool to see Nicholas Baer and his brother, Michael, share the court in garbage time. Both Michael and Nico Hobbs tallied trillions on the night.