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IOWA CITY — In the final few minutes where the Iowa men’s basketball team couldn’t get needed shots to fall, the guy who had in many ways been the offensive driving force all game was forced to watch from the bench.
Forward Tyler Cook had played an efficient, effective game, but found himself in foul trouble. The St. Louis native had 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting from the field and 4 of 5 from the free throw line. He had done the most damage in one-on-one situations, backing down Illinois forward Maverick Morgan on four occasions that led to post moves for layups.
After picking up his fourth foul with 7:16 to go, though, it was basically the end of his game. He didn’t score again and only played 2:40 of the rest of the game.
That’s not an easy thing to do, watch from the bench after feeling like you had taken control. But it’s what Cook was forced to do as Iowa fell to Illinois, 70-66.
“It’s tough. I felt like I was getting the shots I wanted in the lane. I was obviously trying to get the ball more down the stretch, but when you’re out you’ve just got to try to encourage the rest of the guys,” Cook said. “It’s how it is sometimes. Obviously I was not happy. I was getting the shots I wanted to get and they were falling for me. And then you pick up those cheap fouls and stuff, and obviously I wasn’t happy. It is how it is. You’ve just got to play through it.”
Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery acknowledged losing Cook was a blow, saying after the game that “he was really in a rhythm offensively. I think that’s where we got hurt the most.”
Cook’s offense was something of a safety valve for the Hawkeyes, especially in the first half. With the ball stagnant at times and the Illini defense keeping Iowa scoreless for multiple droughts, the Hawkeyes got out of them on two occasions by giving Cook the ball on the block and letting him go to work.
Peter Jok, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds, said how Illinois was playing him — in a similar vein to how many teams have — meant Cook’s performance was that much more helpful. Jok only took eight shots, finishing 4 of 8 overall and 2 of 5 from 3-point range, so Cook’s presence was vital.
“He played really well today. The way they were playing me, I didn’t really force any shots,” Jok said. “They were super aggressive on me, double-teaming me. I was trying to move the ball. So when he came out, I don’t know if anyone else stepped up (in the post). While he was in there, he did a really good job.”
Cook’s night was emblematic of Iowa’s overall — promising and efficient to start, but with a forced absence at the end.
Cook’s season is emblematic of Iowa’s, too. It’s been up and down, good games and bad; elation and frustration. With four games left in the regular season, what he said Iowa has left to do coming off applies to him personally, too.
“Just set the foundation,” Cook said. “You want to set the foundation for how the rest of our season is going to go, and even heading into the summertime for next year. We want to continue to find ourselves.”
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