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

Backcourt to the fore

Hawkeye senior Anthony Clemons goes up for a layup in a game against Florida State University on Dec. 2, 2015. Clemons scored 10 points and had four assists in the 78-75 overtime win. (The Daily Iowan/Sergio Flores)

The Iowa men’s basketball team benefited exceptionally from the play of its guards against Florida State, and they will try to continue their strong play Saturday.

The Hawkeyes will host Kansas City-Missouri in another nonconference tune-up game. The Kangaroos are 5-2 on the season, as is Iowa, with a 76-58 loss to Minnesota and a 79-73 win over Drake highlighting their season.

The Kangaroos are led by juniors Martez Harrison and LaVell Boyd, who average 17 and 14 points per game. Harrison averages 5.7 assists per game as well.

Iowa should be able to match them step for step, especially because the Kangaroos will be much less of a threat than Florida State. Hawkeye seniors Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons and junior Peter Jok combined for 44 points in the Hawkeyes, 78-75 overtime victory over the Seminoles.

Jok led the Hawkeyes with 24 points including a game-sealing 3-pointer from the corner.

“I never think about the last shot; I don’t care how many shots I miss, I’m going to keep shooting,” Jok said. “The coaches and the players, they had my back the whole game.”

Meanwhile, Gesell and Clemmons quietly had good games of their own. Each tallied 10 points, and the duo combined for 7 assists.

Guard play has been a model of consistency so far; Gesell averages 7 assists per game on the young season, good for 12th nationally.

Head coach Fran McCaffery praised the way his guards orchestrated the offense on Wednesday, despite their turnovers.

“In a situation like this, it might have appeared that they were over-dribbling, but part of the reason is, the Xs on the O,” McCaffery said. “They are up all over the next logical receiver, and it’s sometimes hard, so you have got to take it one side to the other and maybe bring it back again until you find somebody open.”

That ability to work for the opening was perfectly exemplified on Jok’s uncontested game winner.

The Hawkeyes will likely be able to exploit their size against the Kangaroos, whose tallest player measures in at just 6-9, but the guards will be instrumental in setting up senior 7-footer Adam Woodbury.

The Kangaroos should also be an opportunity to get the bench involved in a way Florida State did not allow for.

Freshman Christian Williams and Andrew Fleming did not see playing time, and Ahmad Wagner, Nicholas Baer, and Brady Ellingson were used sparingly.

Ellingson, Fleming, and Williams will be critical in the front court, especially because the Hawkeyes could be facing time without junior Dale Jones, a good shooting forward and a staple in the rotation in the first few games of the season.

But for now, McCaffery has a reliable stable of horses in Clemmons, Gesell, and Jok, and they proved to be key against the Seminoles. Theywill likely be again against the Kangaroos, although the game shouldn’t be as close as Wednesday’s.

“I think we showed a lot of leadership, a lot of fight,” Clemmons said. “I think it just pretty much shows you how our team is.”

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