The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa men’s basketball defeats North Florida, 103-78, via dominant second half

Heading into halftime with a four-point lead over the Ospreys, the Hawkeyes’ defense responded in impressive fashion, registering six blocks, six steals, and three 10-second violations in the final 20 minutes.
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Isabella Tisdale
Iowa forward Owen Freeman dunks the ball during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and North Florida at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Ospreys, 103-78. Freeman scored 26 points and blocked 10 balls for Iowa.

The Iowa men’s basketball team defeated North Florida, 103-78, on Wednesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. After heading into halftime up just four points, the Hawkeyes broke out a dominant defense in the final 20 minutes, forcing six blocks, six steals, and three 10-second violations against the Ospreys. 

The Hawkeyes scored their second-highest point total of the season, as senior guard Tony Perkins and grad transfer forward Ben Krikke led the squad in scoring with 21 points apiece. 

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said Perkins did not practice on Monday after finding out his grandmother passed away. When asked after the game about his decision to participate on Wednesday, the guard from Indianapolis, Indiana, said the choice wasn’t much of a debate.

“My grandma would never allow me to sit out a game, no matter what sport I was playing,” an emotional Perkins said of his grandmother. “She wouldn’t care if I was hurt, or if I couldn’t walk. [She would say] ‘You’re playing. You’re going to play, and I’m going to watch.'”

Perkins was one of three different Hawkeye players who hit a three to open the scoring for Iowa. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder would score a layup and a pull-up jumper from the free-throw line to give him seven points in the game’s first five minutes. 

However, the Ospreys would keep it close through their defensive intensity. Four first-half Hawkeye turnovers led to eight Osprey points on the other end. When the offense was struggling, the ball went to Krikke down in the post, where he would draw two fouls and knock down all four free throws. 

After Krikke checked out of the game, it was Owen Freeman who would carry the momentum, scoring six points in the paint and forcing a turnover on the other end after the substitution. The two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week got another putback to put the Hawkeyes up, 40-33, with 4:32 to go in the half. 

While an aggressive shooting team from behind the arc, connecting on 12-of-31 three-pointers, North Florida lacks size. Its tallest player on the roster stands at 6-foot-8. Standing at 6-foot-10, Freeman more than took advantage of this size disparity, scoring 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go along with five boards and five blocks in 19 minutes on the court.

“I had that mindset when I learned about the scouting [report],” Freeman said. “This the game that I know I can come in and play big minutes, do my work early. Obviously, [North Florida] has great players, but they don’t have the size we do … I wanted to take advantage of that advantage.”

After North Florida guard Jasai Miles collected a rebound off a three-pointer and splashed a buzzer-beating jumper from the left elbow, the Ospreys cut the lead to four at the break. After the play, McCaffery looked less than pleased, kicking the scorers’ table and airing out his frustration to his players. 

In his postgame press conference, the coach explained how in the Hawkeyes’ previous matchup against Seton Hall, the Pirates hit a triple at the buzzer to close out the first half. McCaffery said that play was the result of trapping on a ball screen, a decision he said he would take ownership of.

This time around against the Ospreys, the Hawkeyes made what the head coach deemed “unacceptable” mistakes when they quick-inbounded the ball with more than 30 seconds remaining on the clock, thus limiting their ability to take the last shot of the half.

On top of that, Iowa took a shot with nine seconds remaining, thus giving North Florida enough time to attack on the other end.

After the opening 20 minutes, Iowa shot 54.8 percent from the field and hit 4-of-5 from behind the arc while matching North Florida with 17 rebounds apiece. 

Iowa opened the second half with a bang, as senior forward Patrick McCaffery threw down a two-handed jam to open the scoring, but North Florida answered right back with a 7-0 run to take the lead. Perkins and Patrick McCaffery combined for the Hawkeyes’ next eight points to push Iowa to a five-point edge. 

A few minutes later, Iowa junior forward Payton Sandfort ignited. Having scored just two points heading into the second half, Sandfort knocked down a three with a defender in his face, then on the next possession, hit Krikke on a lob pass for a layup. 

After the Hawkeyes forced a 10-second violation on the Ospreys, Freeman then got the crowd ignited with a one-handed putback jam to give Iowa a 13-point advantage, the widest margin of the game at that point. 

Freeman said at halftime, Fran McCaffery identified the press as key to gaining turnovers in the second half while also emphasizing front count play by Freeman and Krikke as needed offense.

The two Iowa bigs scored a combined 22 points on 100 percent shooting from the field in the second half as the Hawkeyes forced 7 Osprey turnovers in that span.

Less than a minute later, Iowa secured another 10-second violation and extended the lead to 18 after second-year guard Josh Dix swatted a shot, got the ball off the carom, and fed a cross-court pass to Patrick McCaffery for his 14th point of the game. 

With less than 4:30 returning in the game, Freeman sparked the loudest cheer from the Hawkeye faithful when he pinned a layup on the backboard, then blocked Osprey Dorian James’ next two attempts from down low. Swatting each shot with an outstretched right hand, Freeman didn’t bite on a pump fake on the second try. 

“I kind of grabbed the rim on the first [block], but we don’t talk about it,” Freeman said with a smile. “I saw my opportunity and went and got it.”

“I kind of activated my Ladji Dembele mode,” Freeman continued, referencing his fellow first-year Hawkeye teammate. “As soon as I turned the ball over [on the other end of the floor], I knew I had to make up for it. So I kind of decided that, no matter what, I’m going to get this.”

Perkins eventually grabbed the board and fed Freeman on the fast break.

The big man’s offensive attempt was rather anticlimactic, as he wedged the ball between the rim and backboard while drawing the foul. Even still, the Carver crowd gave a standing ovation. 

Fran McCaffery credited Freeman’s skills as being derivative from his parents, both of whom starred on the hardwood as former players. Freeman’s mother, Christina, even coached at the college level.

“He’s an athlete. He runs, slides his feet, jumps, but secondly, he trusts his own talent,” Fran McCaffery said of Freeman. “He has confidence in himself … We’re not afraid to switch with him and have him guard a smaller guy or hard hedge and get back to his guy, use his length.”

Dix’s three from the left wing pushed the Hawkeyes over 100 points for the first time since their season-opening game. Iowa dribbled out the rest of the clock from then on to remain undefeated on its home floor. 

Up next 

The Hawkeyes will head into conference play on Dec. 4 when they travel to West Lafayette to take on the top-ranked Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena. After playing against a smaller-sized North Florida team, Freeman and Krikke will have their hands full guarding Purdue center Zach Edey, who measures out at 7-foot-4 and 300 pounds.

Sitting tied for second in the nation with five double-doubles in seven games, Edey is averaging 21.9 points and 10.7 boards per contest.

“A little different than the guys I’ve played before,” Freeman said of Edey. “But [our] coaches are going to have a great scouting report. I’m looking forward to going to Mackey. I want to surprise some people.”

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Isabella Tisdale, Photojournalist
(she/her)
Isabella Tisdale is a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan and is a senior at West High school. In her free time, she stage manages for the theater program at West High. She plans to double major in political science and journalism.