The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Uhl comes back to shine

Peter Kim
Iowa forward Dom Uhl penetrates Gardner-Webb’s defense at the Carver-Hakweye Arena on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. The Hawkeyes defeated the Bulldogs, 76-59. (The Daily Iowan.Peter Kim)

Dom Uhl bounced back after a questionable exhibition showing, and Dale Jones and Ahmad Wagner also impressed observers.

By Kyle Mann

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Now sporting a glistening 2-0 record after the opening weekend of the 2015-16 season, it seems a long time ago that the Iowa men’s basketball team lost to Division-2 Augustana.

It’s not just the team that had to move on, however. One player in particular has somehow fallen, then risen in the young season.

Dom Uhl, a 6-9 forward, was advertised in the preseason as the first big off the bench, backing up both the center and power forward positions. With a lack of depth in the frontcourt, Iowa was prepared to rely heavily on Uhl in his sophomore season.

It was extremely concerning, then, when in Iowa’s 76-74 loss to Augustana, Uhl played only two minutes for what head coach Fran McCaffery cited as a lack of effectiveness.

Uhl will not carry the Iowa basketball team all by himself, but his role as the first big off the bench could quite possibly be the most important on the team. After the debacle against Augustana, Uhl had a stellar comeback weekend.

He responded with 6 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks in 19 minutes of action on Nov. 13 against Gardner-Webb, garnering praise from McCaffery for not shying away from adversity.

“There is one of two ways you handle the next week of practice, and that’s why I went to him first,” McCaffery said. “He handled it very professionally and really affected the game in a huge way in the first half. I thought he played with great energy the whole game and was pretty solid.”

Sports has a weird way of working out like this, so after redeeming himself in the opener against Gardner-Webb, an ankle injury to Peter Jok left a spot in the starting lineup available against Coppin State on Sunday. McCaffery went with Uhl.

Uhl not only started, he logged a team-high 23 minutes, and any questions regarding effectiveness were null and void.

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Although witnessing the visiting Eagle defense was … regrettable, Uhl scored 16 points, grabbed 5 boards, and let loose an impressive barrage of 3-pointers that should encourage Hawkeye fans.

After going 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, Uhl told reporters that’s something he would like to consistently bring to the table.

“I definitely feel comfortable outside,” he said. “That’s where I grew up playing.”

After his up-and-down first couple of weeks, he said he’s more comfortable now with what is expected of him.

“I feel like I kind of know what [McCaffery] wants me to do now,” Uhl said.

His progression and effectiveness will be something to keep an eye on this season, particularly with a tough stretch of games on the horizon. But along with the lanky sophomore, Iowa saw glimpses of freshman Ahmad Wagner also possibly emerging as a significant player in the post.

In only nine minutes against Gardner-Webb, Wagner scored 6 points, grabbed 8 boards, and had 2 blocks. He followed that with 6 points and 4 rebounds against Coppin State.

Wagner will be brought along slowly, but the Hawkeyes have to like what they see from the strong young forward.

“I just do what I can to bring energy, be a hustle guy,” Wagner said. “Do what I can to get other guys open, get the other guys more shots and everything. So that’s rebounding and making effort plays.”

Dale Jones also had a strong weekend rebounding and shooting the ball. With Uhl’s resurgence, Jones and Wagner could come to be a formidable backup unit for McCaffery.

McCaffery and the Hawkeyes will need their post players at their best when they play on Thursday night; Marquette boasts five-star freshman center Henry Ellenson.

Follow @KyleFMann for Iowa men’s basketball news, updates, and analysis.

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