After a back and forth game for much of the first half, the #5 Iowa Hawkeyes (1-0) used a press to speed up the North Carolina Central Eagles (0-1) and spark a 97-67 win to open the 2020-21 season.
The cast of characters returned to great effect with the normal guys doing normal guy things. Luka Garza got 26 points and 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes of play. Jordan Bohannon and CJ Fredrick hit some threes. Joe Wieskamp got to the line and hit some free throws. Connor McCaffery was a floor general on both sides of the floor, leading the team with four assists.
Stealing the show were a pair of Hawkeye freshmen: Patrick McCaffery and Keegan Murray. The two combined 28 points, 10 rebounds, and a pair of blocks as a dose of length off of Iowa’s bench.
Revisiting the preview’s questions:
Defense? Many of the concerns carried over early in the game, as NC Central had a lead well into the first half at 22-20 with 8:49 left in the half. At that point, Fran deployed the press full-time to speed up a NCCU team who had only practiced twice in the prior 47 days, as fact repeated about a dozen times throughout the broadcast. It carried Iowa to a 24 to 7 margin the rest of the half. They often looked slow on the perimeter, leaning on pressuring ballhandlers and shooters from behind - Garza had three blocks of Iowa’s seven blocks - and generally reactive. Fran also did not cycle defenses all that much throughout the game, leaning on the press and standard man-to-man/zone looks.
Will it get better? Hopefully, but we’re on high alert after the Eagles ultimately averaged .985 points/possession overall.
Rotation? Perhaps it was because much of the first half was tight, but Fran stuck to a tight rotation of just eight guys, the starters with Joe Toussaint, Pat, and Keegan filling in the gaps.
Most notably, Iowa stuck to the veteran contingent of Hawkeye guards, with Bohannon, Fredrick, & Toussaint playing 27, 21, and 16 of the first 30 minutes before the cavalry was called. Fredrick picked up where he left off with 3/5 threes seeing the bottom of the net. Toussaint went 1/2, sinking his only three of the game. Bohannon didn’t necessarily look rusty but made just 2/8 shots (2/7 from deep).
Wieskamp’s foul trouble led to extended minutes from Pat. He looked great at the top of Iowa’s press and was a general menace as he displayed a varied offensive game to get 16 points on the game. Free throws look like a concern for him, though!
Repeat? Luka Garza was almost exactly what you would expect: the hardest working guy on the hardwood. He reach 26 points a number of ways on 11/14 shooting, perhaps especially on the offensive glass, where he got seven. He unveiled his Dirk fadeaway just before his day was finished about halfway through the second half. The sky hook will have to way.
If there are picks to nit, concerns, it’s that Iowa shot just 40% outside the reigning conference player of the year’s stat line. That’ll improve but Garza had just a single assist after finding Fredrick on a reset from an entry pass.
The team otherwise played pretty clean, with just 9 turnovers on the day (13.8%). That’ll do.
Overall, it was a pleasing win without being particularly notable in terms newness. This team has high expectations of itself. The defense could be more locked in but nothing seen this afternoon puts those high expectations out of reach.
Next up: Friday, 11/27 at 4:00 PM CST vs. Southern Jaguars