North Carolina

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

Iowa won comfortably – 89-58 – in the season opener against Bethune-Cookman Monday night, but their shooting was a little off, preventing them from surpassing the century mark. The Hawkeyes’ shooting at the start of the game against North Carolina A&T was also a bit off — until it wasn’t. At 4:31 in the first half, Iowa was just 35-30 over NC A&T after a three-pointer from the Aggies’ Jeremy Robinson. However, that was the last time the game was within reach for the Aggies — Iowa went past the final 3:44 of the first half on a 17-2 run to go 52-32 at the break. Iowa’s starters locked out and put the Aggies in a chokehold that put the Wild out of reach.

If the game wasn’t already out of reach at 52-32, it certainly was after Iowa opened the second half with a 16-2 run in the first four minutes. That gave them a 68-34 lead; You usually do well by doubling down on an opponent. The remaining 16 minutes of the second half was officially fries and salsa time. Despite that one-sided lead, Iowa kept pouring in points — they scored a cool 60 points in the last 20 minutes, good for an NBA JAM Flame anywhere 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 on this one, hitting inside, outside, in transition, on the free-throw line — pretty much anywhere he wanted. Patrick McCaffery also had a sharp showing, scoring 21 points on 8/15 shooting (2/4 from the outside), along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Like Murray, McCaffery displayed his versatility as a goalscorer. Iowa’s versatility on offense makes her a nightmare to defend — and we haven’t even talked about Payton Sandfort or Tony Perkins!

Sandfort had 17 points on 7/10 shooting (3/6 from 3-point range) along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. He has lightning fast release and when he gets into a zone the points start flowing in a hurry. But he’s not just a shooter hanging out in the 3-point arc; He was 4/6 inside the arc tonight and a threat on the transition and cuts to the basket. Combine that with some snappy passing skills and you’ve got a winger who can do a lot of things for Iowa. Filip Rebraca was the last Iowa player to hit double digits in that game; He had 12 points on 4/9 shooting (he was also 4/4 on free throws, amazing), plus 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks. These are the types of games he’s enjoyed during his Iowa career, but he’s still looking a lot more confident this season than he did a year ago.

Tony Perkins was the only Iowa starter Not to score double digits – he had 6 points on 3/7 shooting. In fact, his stats – 6 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals – don’t look particularly impressive, other than the six assists. But Perkins is definitely the straw stirring drink for Iowa; He was all over their run to finish the first half and their run to start the second half. Good defensive presence outside the box and a threat in the overtaking lane. He’s also a very good passer, able to give his teammates some absolute pennies. All of those skills were showcased to the fullest in this beautiful sequence:

Perkins’ confidence has grown since the middle of last season, and it was no coincidence that Iowa started playing his best ball of the season after being included in the starting lineup. He has remained an invaluable starter this season as well.

It was a good thing that all five starters fired tonight because Iowa didn’t get much off the bench until the competitive portion of the game was over. In fact, the first 78 points Iowa scored all came from the starting five – Dasonte Bowen’s free throw at 12:30 into the game was the first point scored by a bencher for Iowa. In fairness, McCaffery relied heavily on the starters for the first 25 minutes of this game – Ahron Ulis and Connor McCaffery each played five minutes in the first half, while Dasonte Bowen increased in three minutes. And the second unit was only led to the ice of the game in the second half after the starters’ big 16-2 run. But if you’re worried about Iowa’s ability to get a hit off the bench, well, I don’t know if the first two games of the season did much to allay those concerns. Iowa has been able to pull Keegan (in ’20-21) and Kris (in ’21-22) off the bench the last two seasons, which has been a luxury from hell. There’s no such person this year, which could make for some interesting rotations from Fran.

However, when the bank mob got overrun that game, they maintained the goal-scoring pace set by the starters – they had 34 points in the last 12 minutes of the game. Every bencher who played longer than a minute scored at least 3 points, with Ulis, Bowen and Josh Ogundele leading the way with six points each. Ogundele and 6 points and 5 rebounds in his 8 minutes of work – pretty efficient!

If Ogundele can maintain that rebounding ability – and be physically present on defense without conceding too many fouls – he could earn a few more minutes with the starters this season. If you wanted to get Nissen out of that 41-point win, you’d probably start with defense and rebound, two areas where Iowa was at times exposed, especially in the first half. Iowa eventually easily overtook the Aggies (42-40 overall, 15-12 on offensive boards), but that came after NC A&T outbid them on the glass in the first half – they had eight (!) offensive rebounds, which they converted down in nine second chance points. That helped keep the game tight for a while, as did some lax defensive efforts from Iowa early in the game. Iowa’s big runs came as they upped the intensity on defense and started applying a little more pressure; Before that, they were a little too relaxed on defense, especially in colour.

The ooey sticky cupcake part of Iowa’s non-conference schedule is mostly over, at least for a few weeks. They have a game against Nebraska-Omaha (KenPom Rank: 323) in 10 days, but other than 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 at the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, State of Iowa and Wisconsin. In other words, shit gets pretty real pretty fast.

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