Hawkeyes “Thunder” through the “-birds,” win third straight game
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Three-game winning-streak. All three games over 90 points. Are the Hawkeyes finally becoming the team we thought they could be?
Again, I’m still not sure how good this team really is, but I feel better about Fran McCaffery’s bunch after a 92-64 rout of Southern Utah on Tuesday night.
For the first time this season, the team played an entire game without going through a stretch that had fans wondering if the Hawkeyes had forgotten “how to basketball.” From start to finish, Iowa showed it was better than Southern Utah.
Injuries seemed to impede the Hawkeyes’ ability to truly find an identity in the early going this season, with five different players missing time. Saturday’s game against Drake was the first time all season that each eligible Hawkeye was active, and the flow they crafted carried over into Tuesday.
Iowa wasn’t fazed by any Thunderbird defense, which routinely switched between man-to-man and zone. The Hawkeyes got the rim with ease all night.
Once inside, size made the difference. The Hawkeyes scored 52 of their 92 points in the paint and outrebounded the Thunderbirds 48-29. Ten such rebounds were on the offensive side.
Luka Garza led the way again for Iowa, netting a game-high 17 points and grabbing five rebounds. Tyler Cook and Isaiah Moss also reached double-digits with 16 points each. Moss made three of Iowa’s six total three pointers.
Nicholas Baer continued to make an impact since returning to the starting lineup. Baer led all participants with 10 rebounds, his second consecutive game with double figure boards. The junior also contributed five points and two assists.
Per the usual, Baer’s biggest impact is likely not shown on the stat sheet, but in the energy the team has with him on the court. Missing him in the beginning of the season was a bigger deal than many initially thought.
Iowa looked good on the defensive end as a unit. The Thunderbirds like to shoot, and while they knocked down some open threes, the Hawkeyes didn’t leave them with many opportunities.
Thunderbirds’ leading scorer Jadon Cohee was held below his scoring average (16.8) with just 12 points. Brandon Better (12 points) was the only other Thunderbird in double digits.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Hawkeyes. Both Ahmad Wagner and Brady Elllingson suffered rolled ankles in the first half, and both went to the training room for treatment.
Neither returned to the game, and Wagner emerged for the second half, wearing a walking boot on his right foot. At this point, the severity of their injuries is anyone’s guess. Hopefully, neither is serious.
If there was one aspect of the game that is left open for criticism, it’s the turnovers. Iowa turned the ball over 12 times on the night, most of them being unforced errors in the first half.
Against Big Ten Conference opponents, early giveaways are never good. They’re usually the foundation of a big hill that’s anything but easy to get over. It’s easier said than done, but get the turnovers to single digits, especially against the Southern Utah’s of the world.
Iowa (7-6) takes the floor next in Sioux Falls, South Dakota when they face the Colorado Buffaloes (8-3) on Friday.