Iowa freshman standout, Tyler Cook, hadn't played since Iowa lost 100-92 to the Memphis Tigers in the Emerald Coast Classic. The Hawkeyes were underwhelming during their trip to Florida and the fact that they were going to be without their second best player wasn't going to help matters. At least, it appeared that way on the surface.
Iowa then lost two games without Cook to Notre Dame and Nebraska-Omaha. Things looked like they were going to take a turn for the worst as Cook was still going to be in street clothes for a few more weeks.
But the complete opposite happened.
The Hawkeyes went on a five game winning streak that included wins over a ranked Iowa State team and Northern Iowa. They were getting one of their best players back riding a nice winning streak. That led them to last night on the road at Purdue.
Fran McCaffery wasn't willing to say if Tyler was going to start against Purdue after the win over Delaware State, but did say he'd play starters minutes regardless. McCaffery did not wind up starting Cook, but he did play 22 minutes and might've played more if he hadn't been in foul trouble.
It was a smart move by Fran to bring the talented Cook off the bench to ease the nerves of coming back after a long layoff. However, Cook still admits that it took him a while to get settled.
"I felt a little rushed, coming back I missed the last month of basketball. Especially against this team, this is a tough team to come back against," he admitted after the game.
You could tell that Cook did in fact feel a little out of sorts during the first half. He committed three personal fouls, had just two points, and one rebound.
His head coach, Fran McCaffery wasn't exactly sure what they were going to get out of him going in.
"I didn't know what we'd get out of him at all. So, the fact that he got 12 points and played with a great energy level, and just got back in there to bang around a bit and figure it out. He's real close, so we're excited about him," McCaffery said about his talented freshman.
There were reports swirling that Cook was actually sick a few days before the game. So, on top of the fact that he was fresh off an injury, he was also not feeling well. It's actually fairly remarkable that Iowa got the 10 points in the second half out of him. Having to play and perform at such a high level while under the weather cannot be an easy task.
"In the second half I felt a little bit more comfortable. I got in my groove a bit, but obviously it was a little too late to make an impact at that point," Cook said after Iowa's 89-67 loss.
Cook and Iowa now turn their attention to Sunday, New Years Day, when they welcome in a pretty talented Michigan team. Iowa did not get much from Ahmad Wagner last night. So, we may see Cook back in the starting lineup. Even if we do not, expect to see Cook play more minutes than he did last night, especially if he can stay out of early foul trouble.
The Hawkeyes and Wolverines tip it off at 1:15 pm CT on Sunday afternoon.