Supporting cast helps Iowa down Ohio State

Bakari Evelyn and Cordell Pemsl provided a key spark off the bench in the Hawkeyes’ win over Ohio State on Thursday.


Katina Zentz

Iowa guard Bakari Evelyn shoots the ball during the men’s basketball game against Ohio State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday, February 20, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Buckeyes 85-76.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

There was an incredibly large contribution from someone other than Luka Garza in Iowa’s 85-76 win over Ohio State on Thursday.

In fact, there were big performances from the entire team.

Along with Garza’s 24 points, the Hawkeyes’ final box score featured six players who scored at least nine points with four finding their way into double figures.

With an All-American candidate leading the way, it only helps to have a lineup full of players who can score surrounding him.

“We can’t just put it all on Garza and [Joe] Wieskamp,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “That’s not the team we have. We wouldn’t be sitting here with 19 wins if that was the case.”

Perhaps Iowa’s biggest performer of the bunch was Bakari Evelyn, who dropped 15 points with three 3-pointers.

His triple early in the first half pushed the Hawkeyes to a 27-8 lead, and he kept heating up from there.

Evelyn has played a critical role for Iowa in the past week. After the Hawkeyes’ suffered a double-digit loss to Indiana on Feb. 13, Evelyn helped Iowa bounce back with a win at Minnesota on Sunday.

The role Cordell Pemsl played proved to be just as important.

After scoring six points on a perfect shooting night against Minnesota, Pemsl put up nine against the Buckeyes on 4-of-4 shooting.

McCaffery said he knew the performances from Pemsl were coming. On Thursday, the depth of this Hawkeye team allowed him to flourish.

“We never know who’s going to do the scoring,” Pemsl said. “Obviously, we know what we’re going to get from Luka, but we got other guys that can do things in different ways. Depending on how guys play us, different guys are going to have bigger nights on different nights.”

After the bench — consisting only of Pemsl and Evelyn — combined to score 24, McCaffery saw the importance of the duo playing the way it did.

“Cordell and Bakari were phenomenal tonight,” McCaffery said. “We don’t win the game without them. And they did it at both ends. Cordell had eight rebounds and nine points. Bakari with the 3s, driving the ball, making great decisions.”

When Evelyn and Pemsl are finding their groove on the floor, it also helps Iowa from a flexibility standpoint.

With CJ Fredrick missing Thursday’s game with an ankle injury, McCaffery rotated Evelyn, Joe Toussaint, and Connor McCaffery. It worked.

Toussaint finished with nine points and drained both of his 3-point attempts, while Connor McCaffery hit Iowa’s first bucket from beyond the arc and dished out four assists with one turnover.

Iowa started the game on an 18-3 run, thanks to Connor McCaffery and Toussaint. Then, Pemsl and Evelyn made sure their team kept the effort going.

“They played well,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “They made shots — stepped up and made shots. Guys that hadn’t really done that a whole lot stepped up and made shots, but we were always able to kind of keep it between nine or 10. Give them credit, though. They made shots.”