Hawkeye basketball shines on defense in season-opener

Iowa’s defense – a key weakness last season – helped it pick up a win in the first game of the season.


Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

Iowa’s win over Missouri-Kansas City wasn’t the pretty win many anticipated to start the season. At least in the first half.

Despite only leading the Kangaroos by 8 and shooting just 32 percent at halftime, the Hawkeyes turned it on in the second half to secure a 77-63 season-opening win.

Iowa’s offense – the strength of the team – didn’t show up as much as expected in the first half, leaving the game tight.

No one got into a rhythm offensively in the first, except for freshman Joe Wieskamp, who went 4-of-5 from 3-point range in the first half and scored 15 on the night. Those 3’s accounted for half of Iowa’s total field goals in the first half.

The Hawkeyes took 17 shots from behind the arc and just 8 from two-point range before halftime, much to the dismay of head coach Fran McCaffery, who said he thought Iowa had an advantage in the post.

With about 16 minutes remaining in the second half, Iowa went on a 14-3 run and it proved to be enough to down the Kangaroos.

Eventually, the Hawkeyes found their groove and shot at a 59 percent clip in the second and ended the game shooting 45 percent.

When it was all said and done, the Hawkeyes had Wieskamp (15), Jordan Bohannon (12), Tyler Cook (12), and Maishe Dailey (11) in double figures.

The second unit, led by Dailey offensively and defensively, stepped up when the first group couldn’t get much going.

“We don’t really consider ourselves as a second five,” Dailey said. “We feel like when the bench comes in, there’s no drop off from the starters, so we go in there with an attack mindset.”

By the end of the night, turnovers were the only problem and despite finishing with 16 of them, it ended up being a solid game for Iowa offensively.

“There was a stretch where we were playing with no swag at all,” McCaffery said. “We got to attack, we got to move it, we got to play like we’re supposed to win the game. That’s when everything changed.”

Iowa’s defense – the team’s biggest weakness last season – showed improvement following a dreadful 2017-18 in which the Hawkeyes ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring defense by a significant margin.

Iowa held Missouri-Kansas City to just 63 points on 36 percent shooting from the field.

It could have been better earlier in the game – the Hawkeyes got burned by speedy Kangaroos guard Xavier Bishop a few times – but Iowa found a way to put the clamps on as the game reached the later stages.

Missouri-Kansas City is an actual Division-1 program, so it wasn’t as easy for the Hawkeyes as it was in their exhibition game against Guilford, but it was good enough to get Iowa in the win column.

“What I’m really proud of is, we talked about it all fall, all spring, all summer, and we came out and our defense is what held us in the game today,” forward Ryan Kriener said. “We played pretty good defense [Thursday]. I think we held them to [36] percent shooting, and that’s pretty good stuff.”

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