Iowa basketball was officially unveiled for the 2017-18 season last night and... well, let's just say it was a soft opening and it's probably a good thing Iowa doesn't play any teams with a pulse for a while. Iowa ended up rolling past William Jewell, 105-81, in their exhibition opener, but they made hard work of things against their Division II opponent for a while. William Jewell actually led Iowa 46-45 at the break and they actually extended that lead a bit in the second half. Of course, that first half advantage was built on some very hot three-point shooting (7/15, 47%); naturally, they couldn't keep draining 3s at that clip (3/13, 23% in the second half). Iowa held WJC to 35 points on 37.5% shooting in the second half; the defensive focus that was lacking in the first half showed up a bit more in the second.
But the main reason Iowa turned the game into a rout was because their offense hit the nitro button in the second half. Iowa scored 45 points on 40.6% shooting in the first half, but they had 60 points on 69.7% (nice) shooting in the second half. That's some sizzling stuff. One reason Iowa took control in the second half? They remembered they had a significant size advantage on WJC and took full advantage of it. Luka Garza had 3 points on 1/5 shooting in the first half; he had 14 points on 7/8 shooting in the second half. His fellow exciting freshman, Jack Nunge, had 16 points on 6/6 shooing in 17 minutes, including 11 points on 4/4 shooting in the second half. Tyler Cook also had 16 points, though he did most of his damage in the first half (14 points on 5/7 shooting). Iowa had a sizable edge on the glass (45 to 35) and did much more damage with their offensive rebounds (17 second chance points on 12 offensive rebounds for Iowa versus just two points off 11 offensive rebounds for WJC). Garza and Nunge led the way for Iowa with nine boards apiece. Jordan Bohannon led Iowa in scoring with 19 points on 7/12 shooting, including 4/7 from deep, to go along with five rebounds and four assists.
Of course, the outcome is hardly the most important aspect of an exhibition game (though you'd rather not lose to Division II opponents, of course) -- giving players opportunities and testing out new things matters more. Iowa started Bohannon, Moss, Garza, Cook, and Baer, with Ellingson, Wagner, and Pemsl as the first guys off the bench. Kriener got in as well, although his foul magnet problems followed him (four fouls in eight minutes). Connor McCaffery, Maishe Dailey, Nunge, and Dom Uhl were the final players to get into the game. Moss played limited minutes due to an ankle injury (though Fran said after the game that it was minor and he should be fine) and Baer played limited minutes for unspecified reasons. Hawk Central's Mark Emmert noted that he looked "fatigued" early in the second half, so maybe he's been dealing with an illness lately. Regardless, Baer is a pretty known quantity for Iowa, so it's probably more valuable to give additional minutes to less-experienced players in a game like this; Baer will still play big minutes when the season gets going. Dailey, Uhl, and Kriener played the fewest minutes for Iowa (aside from Baer and the Bench Mob duo of Charlie Rose and Riley Till who got in for the game's final moments) and they seem likely to be near the back of the rotation moving forward.
One of the big stories coming out of the game was Connor McCaffery and his decision moving forward. McCaffery played 18 minutes (the most of any non-starter) and while he didn't make a field goal (0/5), he still wound up with five points on 5/6 shooting at the line to go with three assists and two rebounds. He looked effective as Iowa's backup point guard as well:
McCaffery clearly option A at backup point guard. I don't see any way he redshirts now. He looks like he belongs— MarkEmmert (@MarkEmmert) October 28, 2017
The nice thing about this game (and Iowa's next game, against Belmont Abbey) is that they're exhibitions, so playing in them doesn't impact Connor's ability to redshirt. No decision on a redshirt really has to be made until 11/10, when Iowa opens the regular season against Chicago State. For his part, McCaffery said he hasn't made a decision yet.
He said he won’t make a decision until next week. He has been practicing at point guard with the basketball team but also missed 3-4 weeks earlier in the fall to practice baseball with coach Rick Heller’s squad.
“I’m not leaning one way or the other. I need to get coach Heller’s thoughts first and go a little more in-depth with my dad. There’s just a lot of different things that go into it that I haven’t even looked at yet because I was focusing on tonight’s game. I wasn’t expecting (Williams to transfer) at all,” McCaffery said.
So it sounds like we'll have to wait and see on what this season holds for McCaffery. But it sounds like there's definitely a role for him on this team. And finally, highlights? Yeah, we got a few highlights.
There's a Riley Till dunk at the 0:55 mark on this one:
From three-piece suits a year ago to one-hand dunks this year -- way to go, Riley Till.
NEXT: Iowa plays an exhibition game against Belmont Abbey on Thursday (7 PM CT)