Unselfish Play Continues
When Peter Jok was out with his back injury, the Hawkeyes were playing ultimate team basketball. They were swinging the ball, finding open shooters, and playing extremely unselfish basketball. Some had their doubts about if that would continue with Peter Jok back in the lineup. And it did. Iowa had 22 assists on 27 made baskets, again proving that they are going to be very tough to guard when playing like this. Peter Jok and Brady Ellingson each had five assists a piece, but the next closest was 2. But four separate Hawkeyes had 2 assists, so that really proves that this has become an ultimate team effort. It's paying big time dividends for the Hawkeyes, who are now winners of three straight heading into two tough road match-ups. This style of play is going to have to continue for Iowa if they want to win on the road at Minnesota and Michigan State.
You really can't say enough about the way Brady Ellingson has played with Peter Jok sidelined and then yesterday against Nebraska. Over the last three games he's playing about 25 minutes per game and averaging 11 points and 4 assists. He hasn't turned the ball over and is shooting an astounding 71% from behind the three point arc. He's just been letting the game come to him. He isn't try to force anything, and he's taking good shots when they are there. When they aren't, he passes it up. Fran McCaffery and the rest of the Iowa roster have given Ellingson a lot of credit in post game press conferences since this streak began. They simply cannot say enough about the good that he's done for this Iowa team. If Ellingson continues on this track, it just gives the Hawkeyes another valuable bench weapon.
I talked to Derek about this during the game and we seemed to agree that Jordan Bohannon has been the most improved player from the start of the season until now. He's getting his shot off quicker and when those shots are falling he is a nightmare for opposing coaches and defenses. He's shooting 57% from three in the last three games and is averaging over 14 points per contest. I've really been impressed with not only how he is playing, but how he's handling himself. He's just cool as a cucumber on the floor and much like Ellingson, he hasn't been forcing the action. He's letting the game come to him. Late in the game yesterday Tai Webster was all over him and as soon as he was called for the foul, Bohannon let him know he wasn't backing down, giving him a little bump after the fact. It clearly rattled Webster, but Jordan was showing no emotion as he continued to play. He's going to be an exciting player for the next three and a half seasons for Iowa.
Jok is Back
There was some speculation that Iowa should still hold off on Peter Jok's return mainly due to the fact that the Hawkeyes were playing so well without him. You could argue that Iowa wasn't exactly playing the bullies of the Big Ten during that stretch, but the Hawkeyes definitely looked sharp minus their leading scorer. However, Jok came back Sunday and after the Iowa offense looked pretty lackluster for the first 8 minutes or so, they seemed to figure it out. Jok ended the game with 12 points and 5 assists, but did struggle from the field making just 2-of-7 shots. He did most of his damage at the free throw line where he was 8-of-8. He said after the game that he's just kind of easing back into things and I really like that McCaffery brought him back on Sunday, in a home game. Because bringing him back on the road at Minnesota or Michigan State might've caused the Hawkeyes to struggle. We all know they don't particularly play well on the road. Now Pete has his feet wet again and should be better on Wednesday night in Minneapolis.
This is now the third straight game that Iowa's bench has scored over 30 points. They mustered 44 against Ohio State and then had back-to-back 33 point performances against Rutgers and Nebraska. The biggest thing about Iowa is that they are able to go 10 or 11 guys deep and see no real noticeable drop off. A lot of other teams do not have that luxury. We saw last year when Iowa was at their peak that they were getting a ton of bench help, but when they fell off, so did the bench play. If the Hawkeyes continue getting this from their bench, it makes them even tougher because of the talented scorers they have in their starting lineup. If those guys are able to rest and the bench can keep up the offensive production it helps the starters and Iowa late in the game because they are typically much fresher than the other team is. The bench will be key in two road games this week. We'll see what we get from them.