Iowa 112, North Carolina A&T 71: Run Amok

By RossWB on November 11, 2022 at 10:17 pm
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© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Iowa won comfortably -- 89-58 -- in the season opener over Bethune-Cookman on Monday night, but their shooting was a little off, which prevented them from eclipsing the century mark. The Hawkeyes' shooting to start the game against North Carolina A&T was also a bit off -- until it wasn't. With 4:31 to play in the first half, Iowa was up just 35-30 on the NC A&T after a triple by the Aggies' Jeremy Robinson. That was the last time the game was in reach for the Aggies, though -- Iowa went on a 17-2 run over the final 3:44 of the first half and went into the break up 52-32. Iowa's starters locked down and put the Aggies in a chokehold that put the game out of reach. 

If the game wasn't already out of reach at 52-32, it surely was after Iowa opened the second half on a 16-2 run in the first four minutes. That gave them a 68-34 lead; you're usually doing alright when you're doubling up an opponent. The remaining 16 minutes of the second half were officially chips and salsa time. Despite that lopsided lead, Iowa kept pouring in the points -- they rang up a cool 60 points in the final 20 minutes, good for an NBA JAM flames everywhere 1.58 points per possession. (For the game, Iowa had 1.42 points per possession.) 

Kris Murray led the way for Iowa with 22 points on 7/11 shooting (3/5 from deep), along with 8 rebounds, and 2 assists. Murray looked smooth in this one, scoring inside, outside, in transition, at the free throw line -- pretty much everywhere he wanted. Patrick McCaffery also had a sharp outing, going for 21 points on 8/15 shooting (2/4 from outside), along with 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Like Murray, McCaffery showed off his versatility as a scorer. Iowa's versatility on offense makes them a nightmare to defend -- and we haven't even talked about Payton Sandfort or Tony Perkins yet!

Sandfort had 17 points on 7/10 shooting (3/6 from 3-point range), as well as 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. He has a lightning-quick release and when he gets in a zone, the points start flowing in a hurry. But he's not just a gunner hanging out around the 3-point arc; he was 4/6 inside the arc tonight and a menace in transition and on cuts to the basket. Couple that with some crisp passing skills and you have a wing player who can do a lot of things for Iowa. Filip Rebraca was the final Iowa player to score in double figures for the game; he had 12 points on 4/9 shooting (he was also 4/4 on free throws, incredibly), plus 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. These are the types of games that he's feasted in during his career at Iowa, but he does still look a lot more confident this season than a year ago. 

Tony Perkins was the only Iowa starter not to score in double figures -- he had 6 points on 3/7 shooting. In fact, his stat line -- 6 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals -- doesn't look all that impressive, aside from the six assists. But Perkins is definitely the straw that stirs the drink for Iowa; he was all over their run to end the first half and their run to start the second half. He's a good presence on the perimeter defensively and he's a menace to passing lanes. He's also a very good passer, capable of dropping some absolute dimes to his teammates. All of those skills were on full display in this beautiful sequence: 

Perkins' confidence has grown ever since the midway point of last season and it was no coincidence that Iowa started playing their best ball of the season after he was inserted into the starting lineup. He's remained an invaluable starter this season, too. 

It was a good thing that all five starters were firing tonight, because Iowa didn't get much from the bench until the competitive portion of the game was wrapped up. In fact, the first 78 points Iowa scored all came from the starting five -- Dasonte Bowen's free throw with 12:30 to play in the game was the first point scored by a bench player for Iowa. In fairness, McCaffery relied heavily on the starters in the first 25 minutes of this game -- Ahron Ulis and Connor McCaffery each played five minutes in the first half, while Dasonte Bowen chipped in three minutes. And the second unit only got run in the second half after that big 16-2 run by the starters to ice the game. But if you're worried about Iowa's ability to get some scoring punch off the bench, well, I don't know that the first two games of the season did much to ease that concern. Iowa was able to bring Keegan (in '20-21) and Kris (in '21-22) off the bench in the last two seasons, which was a hell of a luxury to have. There's no one like that this year, which could make for some interesting rotations from Fran. 

Once the bench mob did get run in this game, though, they did maintain the scoring pace established by the starters -- they had 34 points in the final 12 minutes of the game. Every bench guy who played more than a minute scored at least 3 points, with Ulis, Bowen, and Josh Ogundele leading the way with six points apiece. Ogundele and 6 points and 5 rebounds in his 8 minutes of work -- pretty efficient! 

If Ogundele can maintain that rebounding ability -- and be a physical presence on defense without conceding too many fouls -- he could earn his way into some more minutes with the starters this season. If you wanted to pick nits from this 41-point win, you'd probably start with the defense and the rebounding, two areas where Iowa was exposed at times, especially in the first half. Iowa ended up out-rebounding the Aggies slightly (42-40 overall, 15-12 on offensive boards), but that came after NC A&T outworked them on the glass in the first half -- they had eight (!) offensive rebounds, which they turned into nine second-chance points. That helped them keep the game close for a while, as did some lax defensive effort by Iowa early in the game. Iowa's big runs came when they ratcheted up the intensity on defense and started applying some more pressure; before that they were a bit too relaxed on defense, especially in the paint. 

The ooey gooey cupcake portion of Iowa's non-conference schedule is mostly over, at least for a few weeks. They do have a game against Nebraska-Omaha (KenPom ranking: 323) in 10 days, but aside from that their next seven games are against Seton Hall, Clemson and TCU/Cal in the Emerald Coast Classic, Georgia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Duke in the Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden, Iowa State, and Wisconsin. In other words: shit is about to get pretty real, pretty fast. 

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