Hawkeye defense strangles Panthers

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Hawkeye defense strangles Panthers

Iowa guard Christian Williams passes the ball during the first game of the Classic Four. Iowa and UNI played in Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers, 69-46. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

Iowa guard Christian Williams passes the ball during the first game of the Classic Four. Iowa and UNI played in Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers, 69-46. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

Iowa guard Christian Williams passes the ball during the first game of the Classic Four. Iowa and UNI played in Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers, 69-46. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

Iowa guard Christian Williams passes the ball during the first game of the Classic Four. Iowa and UNI played in Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers, 69-46. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

Adam Hensley, [email protected]

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The Iowa men’s basketball team flexed its muscles at the 2016 Hy-Vee Classic on Dec. 17.

The Hawkeyes (6-5) throttled Northern Iowa (5-5), 69-46, to earn their second-straight win in Wells Fargo Arena.

The defense was clicking; the 46 points were the fewest Iowa has allowed this season.

“I feel like we just bought into [the game plan],” Iowa’s Peter Jok said. “We played every minute, starting with the upperclassmen and then the underclassmen. I think we’re just talking, and our chemistry has been good, too.”

The Panthers couldn’t buy a bucket at times, shooting 27 percent from the field for the game. Iowa’s stingy defense caused most of that, pressuring UNI’s shooters as soon as they touched the ball.

In the first half, the Hawkeyes blanketed the Panthers, holding them to 19.4 percent shooting.

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery called the Hawkeyes’ defense “phenomenal.”

“We’ve done it two games in a row; I think that was the challenge,” he said. “We just beat a really good team. They didn’t play well today, but the reason they didn’t play well was because we defended the way we did.”

McCaffery noted that the Panthers weren’t a one- or two-man team — they build on each other to produce a balanced scoring attack.

That balance was nowhere to be found for most of the game.

With right around eight minutes left in the game, only four Panthers had scored any points.

“[Iowa’s] improved a lot,” Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson said. “Their defense has improved right along with their team.”

One of the main story lines heading into this game was the battle between seniors Jok and UNI’s Jeremy Morgan.

McCaffery had recruited both players; however, he was limited to one scholarship. McCaffery said Iowa badly needed a shooter, so Jok earned the spot.

Early on, it seemed as though Morgan had the hot hand, scoring the game’s first 5 points in fewer than two minutes.

However, Iowa shut Morgan down, limiting him to zero points the rest of the first half. In total, he scored 14, somewhat below his 38-point outing in UNI’s previous game.

“When [Morgan] did drive it tonight, and he got in the lane and got to some spots, there was a second guy waiting for him, and in some cases, there was a third guy waiting for him,” Jacobson said.

On the other hand, Jok led both teams in scoring (21 points) and added 8 rebounds.

“When Pete’s hitting shots, we’re tough to beat,” Hawk Nicholas Baer said. “The level of difficulty [of the shots] that he’s hitting, they’re so difficult. Pete’s such an unselfish player that he’ll make plays for other people. Pete’s knocking down a few shots, and then he’ll pick and roll, and he finds Cordell [Pemsl] for a lay-up. Whenever you get to play with a player like Pete, you’ll be successful.”

Last season’s Big Four Classic featured what some called a breakout game for then-freshman Baer.

This year against the Panthers, he scored 11 points and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds en route to his first college double-double.

“He’s just an incredibly valuable person in so many ways,” McCaffery said. “It manifests itself on the floor. In the locker room, as a member of a team, you want Nicholas Baer to influence young guys. Everyone in that locker room respects what he does.”

Pemsl scored 10 points on a night that featured 4-of-4 shooting from the field.

Fellow freshmen Jordan Bohannon and Isaiah Moss scored 6 and 7 points.

In total, 12 Hawkeyes played in the blowout win, and 10 scored.

Unlike the previous break in between games, this time Iowa has a quicker turnaround before its next contest: The Hawkeyes will face off against North Dakota at 8 p.m. Dec. 20.

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