Nunge bounces back against Oral Roberts after tough start to season

Jack Nunge entered Friday’s game without a made field goal on the season, but he left with six, including two 3-pointers.


Abby Watkins

Iowa forward Jack Nunge keeps the ball from Oral Roberts forward Kevin Obanor at the Iowa-Oral Roberts game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Nov. 15. The Hawkeyes won, 87-74.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

Jack Nunge entered Iowa’s game against Oral Roberts on Friday without a field goal.

Excluding two free throws in the Hawkeyes’ season-opener against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Nov. 8, he hadn’t seen a ball he shot slide through the nylon.

That quickly changed against the Golden Eagles.

Nunge finished with 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting — including a 2-of-5 mark from 3-point land — to go along with 10 rebounds in Iowa’s 87-74 win over Oral Roberts in Carver-Hawkeye.

“I knew I had to play better to help the team so we could come out on top,” Nunge said. “Just being aggressive, playing my game, playing the way I play in practice every day — I just had to come out there tonight and do that.”

Nunge previously struggled with keeping his composure after missing early in games. He had another chance to fold early on Friday.

Nunge missed his first shot of the game after driving to the left side of the hoop for a layup. This time, though, Nunge kept shooting, hitting a 3-pointer on his next shot before knocking down a mid-range jumper off a turnover.

He scored seven of Iowa’s first 11 points, and he and Luka Garza — who dropped a career-high 30 points — recorded 18 of the Hawkeyes’ first 24.

“That’s the beauty of his game — he missed a layup, and then he goes for 14 and 10,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “I thought he was outstanding. He was physical on the glass, not afraid to come back and shoot it when he missed one. He’s got a beautiful stroke. We want him to keep shooting the ball.”

Nunge redshirted last season after averaging 5.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in over 15 minutes per game as a freshman.

It took him a couple of games to get going, but if his performance against Oral Roberts is any indication, he could play a big role for the rest of the season and beyond.

Through it all, Nunge’s coaches and teammates have raved about his outings in practice. Garza said he was the toughest matchup for him throughout the summer.

Now, it seems as if Hawkeye fans have seen a glimpse of what makes Nunge dangerous in regular-season games.

“I know what he’s capable of; we all know what he’s capable of,” Garza said. “His first two games kind of was unlike him. For him to come out tonight aggressive — he missed his first shot, but he went back and hit a 3 on the next possession. That’s the Jack Nunge we need on this team.”

And it doesn’t hurt for Nunge to play with someone like Garza down low. When one 6-11 big man gets double-teamed, the other 6-11 big man will be there to get the scoring rolling.

Nunge was the beneficiary of that on Friday.

“We knew their game plan was going to be to double [Garza],” Nunge said. “He’s really good at getting out of the double and looking for kick-outs. They’re going to be late on the rotation, and I just knew that I could shoot that shot if I’m open.”