Hawks pull off eighth straight at Rutgers

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Kyle Mann, [email protected]

The No. 9 Iowa men’s basketball team traveled to Rutgers Thursday night and extended its winning streak to eight in a 90-76 victory that was anything but a gimme.

The Hawkeyes stayed par for the course, quickly jumping out to a 13-2 lead, thanks largely to 11 points from Peter Jok in the first four minutes. Jok, who entered the night as the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, gave the Scarlet Knights a firsthand look at what all the buzz is about, finishing with a career high 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting from the floor.

Rutgers eventually closed the gap to a 19-18 deficit at the 9:24mark in the half and nipped at the heels of the Hawkeyes until tying the game at 24 and 26 before taking a 30-29 lead with 4:26remaining.

RELATED: Jok named Big Ten player of the week

Iowa’s increasingly impressive scoring duo of Jok and Jarrod Uthoff closed out the half hot, however, along with an aggressive Anthony Clemmons. The Hawkeyes finished the half with a 16-7 run to take a 45-37 lead to the locker room.

With Jok leading the way, Uthoff and Clemmons rounded out a lethal trio on Thursday night. In addition to Jok’s 29, Uthoff and Clemmons each had 20 points.

“Jarrod and Pete were on fire, Clemmons was great, so that’s critical,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “You need numerous 3-point shooters so you can spread the floor and move the ball.”

The Hawkeyes hovered between a 5- to 10-point lead early in the second half before stretching to a 19-point lead, 77-58, after a dunk by Ahmad Wagner with 7:23 remaining. Rutgers hung around admirably down the stretch, even reducing its deficit to single digits at one point.

The Hawkeyes, however, have learned how to defend against the comeback since falling to Iowa State after a poor second-half against the Cyclones. The Scarlet Knights never seriously threatened the Hawkeyes, and they finished off a 90-76 victory to move to 15-3 overall. Their 6-0 record in Big Ten play is a first for Iowa since 1986-1987.

The Hawkeyes had three players with 20 points for the first time this season, as well as a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double from Adam Woodbury and 9 assists from Mike Gesell.

“I think we’re doing a great job of executing when we want to run our sets and execute our motion game and making good decisions in transition,” McCaffery said. “When to shoot, when not to shoot, when to drive … so, offensively, we’re getting productivity from a lot of different people, and I think there’s a tremendous amount of unselfishness.”

Iowa will now turn its attention to a matchup with No. 22 Purdue at home Jan. 24. The Hawkeyes downed the then-No. 14 Boilermakers on the road, 70-63, overcoming a 37-20 halftime deficit in a previous meeting.

Despite Iowa’s past success, Purdue possesses the best size in the Big Ten, and on paper (and for one half) would seem to present a challenging matchup for McCaffery and the Hawkeyes. Nonetheless, Iowa’s gritty defense and stellar outside shooting have been more than enough to dictate the tempo of games and transcend perceived “matchups.”

Uthoff is in the running for Big Ten Player of the Year, and with Jok developing into one of the smoothest scorers alongside him, the Hawkeyes have an impressive résumé as it is and are only getting better. They will try to continue their personal and national ascension at noon on Jan. 24 in Carver-Hawkeye. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

 

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