It wasn't the prettiest of performances but Iowa comes with an opening night win, defeating Gardner-Webb 76-59. Jarrod Uthoff lead all scorers with 21 points, all of them coming in the first half. Aside from the senior, it was balanced scoring from everyone else. Woodbury also reached double figures with 11, Peter Jok and Anthony Clemmons tallied 8, while Dom Uhl, Ahmad Wagner, and Nicholas Baer each finished with 6. Senior Mike Gesell only registered two points but had nine assists.
The Hawkeyes lead only 41-37 at the half but they surged early in the second half which allowed them to go into cruise control the rest of the way. They began the second frame on an 8-0 run behind two three-pointers from Peter Jok and a breakaway lay-up from Mike Gesell after a steal at mid-court. That propelled them to a 12-point lead that they never looked back from.
Head coach Fran McCaffery used seven players off the bench, beginning with guard Brady Ellingson and post player Dom Uhl. That was followed by wing Dale Jones, and then freshman guard Andrew Fleming. Nicholas Baer saw action in the second half and provided a three-pointer off the bench immediately while freshmen Christian Williams and Ahmad Wagner entered the game late as well.
The bench appeared to take some steps in the maturation process.
It was a good sign that Wagner was able to take the court as he had been hampered by a shoulder issue early on in the week. He had an instant impact as well swatting away a shot defensively in the paint and also getting a putback after an offensive rebound. Dom Uhl played much better than what we saw in the first two exhibition games. Nicholas Baer knocked down a couple shots once again. Dale Jones could possibly be their best rebounder with Ahmad Wagner not being far behind.
Rebounding is still a concern with this team. They allowed way too many offensive rebounds against Gardner-Webb, surrendering 11. The bright spots is the rebounding effort they can add off the bench with Wagner and Jones. They play with a ton of fearlessness and physicality. The fact that Wagner finished strong underneath following crashing the glass on the offensive end was a positive sign as well.
Another setback was the injury early on in the second half to Peter Jok. It looked like an ankle issue and he never returned to the game. He did return to the bench after being in the locker room and had his foot in a walking boot.
Iowa shot the better in the second half than they did the first. They finished the game at 41 percent while Gardner-Webb was 32 percent from the field.
Walking away with a win is the most important thing and not everyone was that fortunate if you look at teams such as Illinois and Wisconsin. There were some bright spots and some concerns, but I think McCaffery and the Hawkeyes will still walk away feeling pretty happy about the effort.
The Hawkeyes will return to action on Sunday as they host Coppin State.