The Eagles don’t fly on Tuesday

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Iowa’s Nicholas Baer shoots over a Drake player. The Hawkeyes beat the Bulldogs 70-64 in the Big Four Classic (Joshua Housing/The Daily Iowan)

The Hawkeyes started slowly but did everything right from there en route to a blowout victory over Tennessee Tech.

By Ian Murphy

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The Iowa men’s basketball team pounced on Tennessee Tech after a slow start, blowing out the lowly Golden Eagles, 85-63, in Carver-Hawkeye on Tuesday.

Despite poor shooting to open the game — the team shot 2-of-11 in its first 11 attempts and started 0-of-9 from behind the 3-point line — the Hawkeyes found their collective groove and let nothing get in their way.

After a rocky start, and during a brief benching, junior Peter Jok got an earful from head coach Fran McCaffery and assistants.

“He just wanted me to pick it up,” Jok said. “I just used it as motivation.”

Jok, who finished with 21 points to lead all scorers, returned with just under five minutes left in the first half and quickly hit three-straight 3s.

“That’s the Peter Jok we need to see,” McCaffery said. “When his game is tight like that, he affects the game at both ends.”

His hot hand caught on throughout the bench.

With just over 10 minutes left in the half, the Hawkeyes led 16-12, and the Golden Eagles seemed primed to compete. Then the Iowa shots started falling.

The Hawkeyes led 43-21 at the half.

Redshirt freshman Nicholas Baer continued his hot streak, dropping 19 points, and every player dressed saw the floor. Senior Jarrod Uthoff scored 13, and senior Anthony Clemmons added 11. Mike Gesell had 2 points but made up for it with 10 assists.

The Hawkeyes finished with a 45.7 field-goal percentage as well.

“I think we went out there and handled business, we got better today,” Clemmons said. “I think we’re pretty confident; the coaches are pretty confident.”

And in front of a crowd of 14,432, the Golden Eagles provided the perfect final tuneup for the Hawkeyes, who will welcome No. 1 Michigan State to Carver-Hawkeye on Dec. 29 and then travel to face a top-10 Purdue team on Jan. 2.

McCaffery complimented the Eagles postgame.

“I think it is a pretty good team here,” he said. “They have eight wins, four double-digit comebacks.”

But the box score doesn’t lie, and the Hawkeyes will not have the luxury of emptying the bench against the Spartans, even with the Spartans’ loss of star guard Denzel Valentine.

Despite the imposing challenge in front of them, especially early in the conference season, the Hawkeyes say they will be prepared.

“We always look at it like this: You got to play those people at some point,” McCaffery said. “You play them early, you play them late, you play them in the middle.”

Those people come to town Dec. 29. Hide the faint of heart.

Follow @IanFromIowa on Twitter for Iowa men’s basketball news, updates, and analysis.

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