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Breakdown: Iowa Overwhelms Northern Iowa in Big Four Finale

December 15, 2018

Written by Rob Howe

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DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa showed no signs of rust after a nine-day layoff for finals. The Hawkeyes pounded instate rival Northern Iowa, 77-54, Saturday night here at Wells Fargo Arena.

They led for 39 minutes, 24 seconds and by as many as 29 points (23 in the first half). It was apparent early that they outmanned the Panthers (4-6).

No. 22 Iowa (8-2 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) closed the curtain on the Big Four Classic, which ran for seven years. Hawkeye athletic director Gary Barta said before the game that there were no more plans to play Northern Iowa or Drake moving forward, saying his program needs to do what’s in its best interest in pursuing championships.

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The Hawkeyes fed off their defense, especially that of point guard Jordan Bohannon on UNI leading scorer A.J Green. The freshman from Cedar Falls came in averaging more than 15 points a game, but managed just two points on 1 of 8 shooting from the floor on Saturday.

For the game, the Panthers 36.4 percent on field goals, including 20.7 on threes. They were just 53.5 from the foul line.

UNI coach Ben Jacobson was happy with his team’s shot selection. The inability to convert those attempts created a deficit from which it couldn’t recover. He wasn’t saying it would have changed the game’s outcome but felt like it would have been competitive.

The Hawkeyes mixed defenses well. They were connected on both ends of the floor, helping each other in slowing down UNI and moving the ball well side to side on offense. They rebounded well when the Panthers missed shots, allowing only four second-chance points.

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Iowa shot 53.7 percent from the floor, including 40 percent from behind the three-point arc. It registered 18 assists on 29 baskets and turned it over only 12 times, which is above average for this team.

Like he showed against Iowa State last week, Hawkeye junior Tyler Cook proved to be a handful for UNI. The forward tied teammate Luka Garza with a game-high 17 points. He also delivered game-highs in rebounds (13) and assists (5). He knocked down six of his seven field-goal attempts.

Iowa experienced an up-and-down week of practice during finals, according to coach Fran McCaffery. It bounced back from a sluggish Thursday workout with a strong workout on Friday.

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The Hawkeyes boast a veteran lineup and they showed a lot of maturity in staying focused during their nine-day layoff. It represented another good sign for an outfit that rebounded from a disaster at Michigan State a few weeks ago and clocked Iowa State in its next contest.

Iowa’s concentration could be challenged the rest of the month when it faces three teams at Carver-Hawkeye Arena that it will be heavily favored to win. It begins Tuesday when 3-9 Western Carolina comes to town.

The Hawkeyes should resume Big Ten play on Jan. 2 at Purdue with an 11-2 mark and a national ranking. It will be important for them to continue improving and not get complacent against inferior competition.

The way they’ve navigated this season so far, McCaffery should be confident his experienced squad can handle that task.

Tip-Ins: Cook netted his 1,000th career point put a put-back basket at the 15:21 mark of the second half…Northern Iowa’s 18 first-half points are the fewest points allowed by an Iowa team since the Panthers were held to 16 points against the Hawkeyes in 2016….Hawkeye junior Jordan Bohannon reached 200 career 3-pointers with a triple in the first half Saturday…Iowa improved to 6-1 in the seven year history of The Hy-Big Four Classic…Iowa improved to 68-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 61 points the last nine seasons…Iowa has defeated Northern Iowa by 20 points or more each of the last two meetings (23 points in 2016; 23 points in 2018).

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