What if I told you that the Iowa Hawkeyes controlled a game against the #13 team in the nation from the opening tip to the final buzzer? What if I told you that they did it by playing strong defense and hitting perimeter shots? What if I told you that walk-on Riley Till played eight minutes and was impressive in his performance? Would you believe me? You better believe me because Iowa defeated the #13 Oregon Ducks 77 to 69 (nice) doing all of those things.
From the very tip, Iowa controlled the pace and tempo of the game. Inspired by some strong three-point shooting, the Hawkeyes jumped out to a 21-9 lead. ESPN and their crew fawned over Bol Bol, Oregon’s gigantic center and superstar recruit, but while everyone focused on what the freshman phenom might do next, Iowa continued to knock down three pointers and build a steady lead.
As always, Jordan Bohannon, who led the team with 16 points, facilitated Iowa’s offense. He doled out three assists, picked up a couple of steals and even notched four rebounds. That stat might be the most important of the game: rebounds. The Hawkeyes outrebounded Oregon 46 to 34 and were given plenty of second chance point opportunities.
Tyler Cook was his usual freakish self on the boards, leading the team with 10 rebounds, nine of them on defense. Garza was nearly perfect from the floor, scoring 12 points and making both of his three point attempts. Kriener might’ve been the player of the game, as he scored 11 points off the bench and was responsible for schooling Bol Bol more than once. His strong defense kept Bol in check and he used some crafty veteran moves to get around Bol’s gigantic frame.
Even with the Hawkeyes turning the ball over at a higher rate, 14 turnovers to Oregon’s eight, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because the true reason Iowa won their game against the Ducks was their strong defense. It was easily the best defensive performance since two seasons ago. Seriously, Iowa didn’t play defense this strong at any point in 2017-2018. Even though Oregon’s shot percentages weren’t terrible, it was Iowa’s defensive rebounding that prevented the Ducks from getting second chance opportunities. 33 defensive rebounds by the Hawkeyes is nothing short of stellar.
Coming out of half with a 39-28 lead, Iowa’s offense slowed down but they continued to pick up fouls and scored at the line. As the game wound down it looked like the Hawkeyes would need to continue to break Oregon’s press and make their free throws. They did just that, and finished the game making 29 of 33 free throw attempts, an impressive 87.9%.
We didn’t know what to expect from the Hawkeyes coming into this game. Iowa hadn’t played defense in, well, years, and Oregon was one of the better teams in the nation. Then, the Hawkeyes came out and shut the Ducks down, while shooting lights out from beyond the arc early in the game. They didn’t play the best offense in the second half but they continued to stay aggressive and found themselves at the free throw line, which maintained their lead. It ended in a win.
Before UConn vs. Syracuse tipped off, I expected the Hawkeyes to play UConn. As in, I expected Iowa to lose and play UConn in the consolation game. Then, the Huskies beat the Orange and the Hawkeyes beat the Ducks, so it looks like they’ll be playing the Huskies regardless, at 5:30 PM on ESPN tomorrow in the 2K Empire Classic Championship game.
This has been a rough fall for us Hawkeye faithful (PUT FANT IN THE DAM GAME). We were cautiously optimistic that the men’s basketball program would make some noise if they improved from last season but c’mon, who saw them beating #13 Oregon? Well, they beat Oregon so you know what time it is…