Raise your hand if you expected a game like that. OK, now put your hands down, you damn liars. Just three days after getting carved up like like a Christmas ham by Michigan State, it was Iowa's turns to bring out the long knives and slice and dice an opponent into finely shredded leftovers. That said opponent was Iowa State only made things even sweeter. Iowa nuked Iowa State inside and out in this one and won in a glorious rout, 98-84.
Both teams started the game hot on the offensive end, though Iowa State was a bit hotter and led through most of the first 10 minutes. After trailing 24-21 with 11 minutes to play, though, Iowa went on a 15-3 run to take a lead they would never relinquish. Iowa State made a few runs -- they cut it to three points late in the first half and hacked a 20-point Iowa lead down to 8 with six minutes to play -- but Iowa always seemed to have an answer. Iowa went on a 4-0 burst to end the first half and go into the break with a 7-point lead and they went on a 25-12 run to start the second half and turn a 7-point halftime advantage into a 20-point lead with 12 minutes to play. When Iowa State cut that lead down to eight, Iowa answered with an 8-0 run of their own to put the game back out of reach. The Iowa offense that looked so stagnant at times against Wisconsin (and for most of the Michigan State game when it was still a competitive contest) looked alive and well in this game.
Iowa got big games from multiple sources in this one, from starters and the bench. In the first half Tyler Cook and Isaiah Moss -- Cook had 18 on 7/11 shooting and Moss had 15 on 7/9 shooting. Cook finished with a monster line -- 26 points on 12/16 shooting, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists -- but he's been playing great all year; this outing was just a little greater than usual, really. He also murdered another innocent rim:
Tyler Cook gets his own rebound and goes Dr. Dunkenstein. pic.twitter.com/1s09GRj55w
— Twirls Fingers, Claps Hands (@MJ_GIA) December 7, 2018
Moss followed up his solid outing against Michigan State with his best game of the year by far: 20 points on 8/12 shooting (4/5 from deep) to go with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. This Moss is the reason why Fran doggedly sticks with him in the starting lineup; because when he's clicking, he can provide Iowa with the backcourt firepower and opportunistic defense that can really be an asset. We just need to see performances like this from him a bit more often.
Iowa also got big games off the bench from a handful of guys. Nicholas Baer gave Iowa 14 points on 5/6 shooting (4/5 from long range), as well as 7 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, and plenty of his patented positive hustle plays. His scorching 3-point shooting to start the second half (he made three straight triples) was a big reason Iowa was able to blow the game open at that point. He finished the game with a +13 plus-minus rating, second best on the team. That was second best to... Connor McCaffery, who was once again a difference-maker for Iowa off the bench. He was +15 in his 21 minutes of work, in which he dished out five assists, grabbed three rebounds, had a block... and scored 12 points, all in the final five minutes of the game. He was was huge for Iowa in the clutch -- he wasn't afraid to drive to the rim and either get a bucket or get fouled, where he was perfect; he went 8/8 at the free throw line. McCaffery scored 12 of Iowa's final 18 points in the game; without his efforts, we're either talking about a soul-sucking collapse for Iowa or (best case scenario) an agonizingly close win.
But we'd be remiss if we didn't show some love to Iowa's other bench hero, too. Cordell Pemsl's surprising return to the court was productive both in counting stats (he had 8 points and 6 rebounds) and in intangibles; his presence seemed to give Iowa a little extra fire. If he can give Iowa an offensive lift off the bench and provide a little edge, that should be a boon to Iowa going forward. A week ago we thought he was done for the season; now he could wind up being a vital cog going forward.
Iowa's other recently injured player, Joe Wieskamp, was a surprise late addition to the starting lineup (McCaffery said he was a "gametime decision" and Iowa actually released one starting lineup that didn't include him), and his presence also seemed to give Iowa little extra juice. He had 7 points, 2 assists, and a rebound in 22 minutes, but Iowa was also +11 with him on the court. Now he can take the next nine days off to rest and heal up his ankle for UNI.
Iowa's defense was much-improved from the last few games, at least in stretches -- Iowa State went nearly eight minutes without a field goal at one point. They were definitely improved on the glass, too; they outrebounded Iowa State by a 20-rebound margin, 44 to 24. Iowa grabbed 17 of their own 26 missed field goals, which they turned into 23 second chance points. They kept Iowa State off the glass on both ends of the floor. Really, the only thing that kept this game close at all was Iowa's penchant for turnovers; they had 18 giveaways (10 in the first half), which led to 24 Iowa State points. Iowa was sloppy with the ball at times and struggled with entry passes into the post (especially in the second half), so there are certainly things to work on; that said, it feels a lot better to work on a few tweaks after a 14-point win.
This game was exactly what the doctor ordered after the debacle in East Lansing on Monday night. That game brought memories of last season's misery rushing back to the fore; tonight's game said "NOT SO FAST!" The "real" Iowa team is probably somewhere in-between the team that got run off the floor by MSU and the team that demolished ISU tonight, but that's fine. Iowa needed to stop the bleeding and recharge the hope batteries for the fanbase after last weekend; they did just that in emphatic fashion tonight. Now and forever, it's a Hawkeye state.
Hawkeyes Rout Cyclones in Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Game pic.twitter.com/J2T89HIGB5
— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) December 7, 2018
Let's say it together now, Hawkeyes: Another Cy-Hawk series win.
— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) December 7, 2018
NEXT: Iowa has a week off before facing UNI in the final Hy-Vee Classic on Saturday, December 15 (6 PM CT, BTN).