IOWA CITY – A win is a win, and goodness did the Hawkeyes need one. Didn’t matter where. Or how. Or whom it was against.
Struggling through a four-game losing streak, the Hawkeyes returned home to trounce the Southern University Jaguars by a final of 91-60. Southern was playing its third game is as many days, including an afternoon tilt with UCF in Orlando on Saturday.
The Jaguars, despite the long, exhausting trip, kept it close in the first half and trailed by just 10 at the break. After a difficult loss on Thursday in Ames, the Hawkeyes didn’t look ready to play until the second half was under way.
Once they were ready, it was over. Southern, jet-lagged from yesterday, had neither the energy nor the size to keep pace with the Hawkeyes. Aaron Ray come off the bench and led the Jaguars in scoring with 12.
Freshman Luka Garza recorded his second career double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds, both career-highs.
Despite the size advantage, Southern actually outscored Iowa in the paint 28-24. That’s because the three-point shots were falling for the Hawkeyes.
A season-best 13 three-pointers found the bottom of the net for Hawkeyes. Isaiah Moss led the way, making four of his nine triple attempts.
The biggest improvement for the Hawkeyes on Sunday was guard play. Connor McCaffery made his season debut for the Hawkeyes and played extended minutes at point guard.
Ball movement, particularly against Southern’s zone defense, was as good as it has been in a while for Iowa when McCaffery was running the show. McCaffery dished out four assists, second on the team behind starting point guard Jordan Bohannon (five).
The team only committed seven turnovers on the night, after giving up 18 in each of its last three games.
A deeper look at the stat sheet shows that some Hawkeyes are certainly trending in the right direction. Jack Nunge finished in double-digits for the second game in a row, and Maishe Dailey and Brady Ellingson are being more aggressive as of late.
Blowing out a mentally and physically depleted Southern team doesn’t exactly mean the Hawkeye struggles are over, but it’s encouraging for the team to have another number put up in the win column. Despite McCaffery’s debut, the team still has yet to be at full strength as forward Cordell Pemsl missed Sunday’s game with a shin contusion he suffered at Iowa State.
Are the issues completely cleared up? I’d say it’s unlikely, as there’s still a ton of basketball to be played. It may take another game or two against more formidable opponents for the Hawkeyes to truly get back to form.
But a win is a win.
Iowa (5-6, 0-2 B1G) faces in-state foe Drake (5-4, 0-0 MVC) on Saturday in the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Drake plays at No.14 Minnesota on Monday. Game time is 1:00pm CST on Big Ten Network.