After watching the tape of Iowa's 107-80 season opening win against UNC-Asheville, a few things jumped out at me thanks to slow motion and rewind capabilities. I have compiled some observations and thoughts below.
Brody Boyd started out with a bang on Saturday. He picked up two steals on UNC-A's first two possessions. Boyd had five points, two steals and an assist just 2:17 into the game. That is a great way to start the season, and Boyd buried his first three-point attempt of the season.
With that bucket, Boyd moved past BJ Armstrong and he now sits at a tie for fourth place in Iowa history with 139 three-pointers made along with Luke Recker. The school record is 226 by Chris Kingsbury. Boyd needed 90 three-pointers at the start of this season to tie that mark. Kingsbury hit 117 in one season and Recker nailed 92 three's two years ago, so it could happen, but I doubt it. It's more likely that Boyd will move past Dean Oliver's 161 mark by season's end and fall short of Kent McCausland's 214 mark for 2nd.
Boyd's first assist of the year came at the 17:47 mark of the first half and the entire play was a thing of beauty and hopefully shades of things to come this year.
Jared Reiner grabbed a defensive rebound and immediately turned and fired the ball to Boyd who was streaking on the outlet fast break on the right side of the court. Boyd caught the ball just across mid court and attacked the basket from the right side on a two on one break. He stopped just short of the block and flipped the ball back to a trailing Greg Brunner who slammed the ball home.
That play took just four seconds and clearly Iowa has been working hard on transition in practice this year, because Reiner's first move after hauling in the carom was to find his outlet and push the ball down the court.
Pierre Pierce did not touch the ball on offense until the 17:09 mark and missed his first shot at the 17:05 mark.
Pierce made a nifty baseline drive move at the 16:40 mark, leaving his defender in a cloud of dust and Pierce slashed to the middle of the lane and was fouled. He missed his first free throw attempt but made the second.
Pierre got to the line eight times in this game and he made six of his free throw attempts. This is going to be a very, very key stat this season, as Pierce hit just 61% of his free throws his freshman season. He got to the line around nine times per game this summer in Australia and with his driving and slashing game and his running the baseline this year, ala Dennis Hopson of Ohio State back in 1987, he is going to get to the line a lot this season. If Pierce can hit 70% from the line this year, he will probably average between 16-18 points per game, at least. More importantly, teams will not be able to play ‘hack-a-Shaq' on him when he comes into the lane and he will not be a liability with the ball in his hands in the waning minutes of the game.
Pierce looked real good without the ball on Sunday. In fact, he looked good in nearly every facet of the game. He led the team in deflections, he cut well on several plays, he rebounded well and he did not force the action for the most part. He was a team player, unselfish and he did the right things.
He scored 26 points in 28 minutes and he was unselfish. If you didn't see the game, you really missed seeing a different Pierre Pierce than the one you remember from two years ago. His on court IQ was very apparent on Sunday and he is also physically much more mature as well.
Early in the first half, Sean Sonderleiter had the ball in his hands on the far wing, beyond the three point line. Pierce was on the opposite box, and did a curl move and flashed in the lane. Sondy fed him and Pierce took one dribble toward the hoop and scored on a one-hand push shot that looked totally natural, and he skied over 6-6 guard Bryan McCullough.
Then a few plays later at the 15:55 mark of the first half, Reiner picked up a loose ball, handed it to Jeff Horner on the left defensive block, Horner took one dribble and made one of his ‘routine' two hand wrist flick passes that traveled about 40 feet, Brody Boyd jumped and caught it at the left wing three point line on the offensive end, then twisted in mid-air and hit a streaking Pierce on the opposite side of the court and Pierce had a lay up. The play took three seconds. This team will run.
UNC-A had to take a timeout even though the TV timeout was due up after the next dead ball as they were down 12-7 at that point. On Iowa's next possession, Jeff Horner was dribbling from left to right and saw Pierce give a outside fake, inside cut on the right baseline (again, great movement without the ball) and hit Pierce on a bounce pass on the right baseline. Pierce took a couple of dribbles and had a shot on a reverse lay up that would have been a spectacular play, but Pierce realized UNC-A had their 7-2 center in the game, and he fired it out to Brody Boyd from underneath the basket and Boyd hit his second trey of the game.
Great ball movement, great movement without the ball, great spacing, unselfish play. I hope those words are harbingers for the entire season.
Nick DeWitz came into the game after the TV timeout and was posting up and screening down on the blocks, playing either the ‘4' or the ‘5'.
At the 12:25 mark, Horner drove into the lane from the right wing and Pierce crashed with him, setting up at the right block, hands up, ready to receive the pass. Horner found him for another lay up.
I know it might sound like I am making a big deal out of things like Pierce having his hands up or his cutting to the hoop, but those are the little thing in basketball that are so very important and they are signs that a player has matured from what we saw two years ago on the court.
At the 11:24 mark, Horner dribbled from left to right at the top of the key, and he noticed Sondy coming down the court to get set up in the half court set. This was not a fast break. But Sondy's man was slow getting to him, and off of the dribble and in one motion; Horner hooked a pass over his head with one arm and hit Sondy for an easy score.
At the 11:24 mark, Sondy hauled in a DR, handed it to Horner who made another two-handed flick pass to Pierce who had released in transition and caught the ball in front of the UNC-A bench. Pierce immediately cut to the middle of the floor, as he is supposed to in transition so he can be in a position to score or pass with numbers. Pierce was able to get all the way to the rack and hit another lay up.
Horner made another made another similar move and pass at the 11:00 minute mark like he did to Sondy a few plays earlier. This time, he hit Nick DeWitz in the land and DeWitz hammered home an uncontested dunk for his first Iowa shot attempt.
Iowa made a lot of easy buckets in the first half off of their fast break and secondary break sets.
DeWitz hit a three pointer on Iowa's next possession and that made it 29-14 Iowa at the 10:20 mark of the first half. Horner had five assists at this point (he would finish the game with seven).
Mike Henderson made his Iowa debut at the 9:56 mark of the first half and it didn't take long for him to show Iowa fans one of the things that he does best: getting the ball to the rim on penetration.
At the 9:04 mark, Reiner handed the ball to Henderson after a DR (defensive rebound) at the top of the key on the D side. Henderson dribbled up the court and made a spin move at the top of the key on the offensive side and converted the point blank shot.
I watched Henderson attack the basket against the best in the country two summers ago at the Nike camp. This was just before he decommitted from Iowa State, but the rumors were already swirling at that camp, which was why I sat near Matt Daugherty (then UNC coach), Roy Williams, Kelvin Sampson and several others who where there watching Henderson. Oklahoma and UNC would eventually offer him.
More selflessness from Pierce came at the 8:37 mark. He had an open look at a three and jumped as if to shoot it, but he dropped a pass down on the baseline to DeWitz who hit a 12-foot jumper.
On an unrelated note, the rim at the Iowa end of CHA sounds like stacking dishes in a cupboard.
A few plays later, Reiner grabbed a DR and kicked it out to Horner who flicked it to Henderson who caught it at the right elbow on the offensive end, made a dribble in, went up in the air crossing the lane from right to left, and hit the shot and was fouled. Very good body control out of Henderson on that play.
Another unrelated note, Iowa commit Carlton Reed, not Mike Henderson, led Waterloo East in scoring last year. Reed is a better three-point shooter than Henderson, but both are great athletes. Henderson is ‘bigger' as far as mass goes, something that will serve Mike well this year in league play.
DID YOU KNOW than an Iowa player has led the Big Ten in rebounding three years in a row? Reggie Evans twice and Reiner last year. Reiner should do that again this season.
A few plays later, Henderson again drove into the lane and went up for a shot, but dropped a dime to Greg Brunner who hit the easy lay up.
At the 3:50 mark of the first half, Pierce grabbed a DR and pushed the ball up the court. He began to penetrate the arc and kicked it to an open Body who hit his third three of the half; two of those three's came off of Pierce assists.
Iowa has four guards that could play the point if need be in Boyd, Horner, Henderson and Pierce. Three of those guards can play the two (Henderson is a point) and Pierce can play the three, a spot that he is really going to flourish at.
Remember those two left to right hook, no-looks passes that I was talking about earlier that Horner made? He did it again late in the half, but Sonderleiter was not looking at Horner and the ball went out of bounds. Jeff got the turnover, but that one was on Sondy and he would have had another easy bucket. With Horner, you just have to assume that he sees you, even if you have not made eye contact with him. Horner picks up his marks at half court and then sees everything peripherally. He is going to be fun to watch for three more seasons.
Iowa led 56-41 at the break.
What you have read was very much the tone for the game.
Jared Reiner did not get enough touches in the first half down low, but there are a couple of reasons for this. One being that Iowa was in transition quite a bit, with a quarter of their points coming off of fast breaks. The other reason was that Reiner was not posting up low enough. He was setting up a good 10 to 12 feet from the bucket. He needs to stay on the block and use his size to get there and pivot.
"I didn't think that Jared finished real well in the first half. He got to the line 10 times. He got nine shots on the night." Steve Alford would say after the game. "We did a better job of going to him (in the second half), but he did a better job of getting lower. In a lot of the things we run, he kept going outside the paint area. We didn't want that."
Iowa went to Reiner on the first possession of the second half. Reiner missed.
One of the prettiest plays of the night came at the 18:21 mark of the second half in a half court set. Reiner flashed to the elbow as he does a lot in Iowa's hi-low game, and Pierce had the ball on the wing in front of the Iowa bench. Pierce passed the ball to Reiner who was at the same side elbow and before Reiner could even catch the ball, Pierce made a hard diagonal cut towards the hoop. Reiner caught the ball and immediately made a bounce pass back to Pierre who hit the lay up on the old give and go.
I love plays like that. I love seeing guys block out the shooter, make give and go's; the simple things. If Pierce runs without the ball the rest of the year anywhere near the way he did on Sunday…well, it will be fun to see.
At the 16:25 mark, Pierce hit Jeff Horner who was coming up from the baseline off of two screens by Reiner and Brunner. Horner caught it, squared and shot the ball and splashed home his first three of the year. A pretty play all around and a nice catch and shoot.
Pierce also had a nice catch and shoot three in the 2nd half where he actually looked like a jump shooter. Keep that up!
At the 11:30 mark, Pierce drove middle, pulled up as if to shoot, but dropped a pass to a cutting Brunner on the right baseline. Brunner went up and made a nifty reverse lay up.
Prettiest Play of the Night Part II, again involving Pierce. Greg Brunner had the ball at the top of the key and Pierce was to his right on the wing. Brunner held the ball for a second, and Pierce's defender decided to come out and deny a pass. The INSTANT Pierce's defender made that move, Pierce cut to the basket like he was shot out of a cannon and Brunner hit him on a bounce pass and Pierce leapt, went under the rim and hit a pretty reverse layup, somehow with his right hand. He was going from the right side of the floor to the left. I am not sure how he made that with his right hand.
The shot didn't matter to me as much as the instinct to cut to the hoop when his man started to come out. THAT is the important part. Most players can make acrobatic shots, but feeling your man come out and taking off to the hoop and then your teammate hitting you with the pass is the key there, something we will see again.
I know I have talked a lot about Pierce, but there were a lot of good things that he did on the night to talk about. This is not the same player we saw two years ago, not even close.
Greg Brunner made a great hustle play on defense in the 2nd half. UNC-A had the ball and attempted to make an outlet pass on the break. Brunner intercepted it in front of the UNC-A bench running full ahead, he turned and fired the ball off the leg of a UNC-A player and the ball went out of bounds and back to Iowa. That all happened in less than a second and Brunner's momentum sent him crashing into the second row of seats behind the UNC-A bench.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT(After Jared Reiner had fouled out) "Reiner is going to the bench and shaking his hand is Glen Worley, who knows something about fouling out." Mac McCausland.
Speaking of Worley…he didn't play. And Iowa scored 107-points. Not a bad first game.
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