Hlas: Free throws are free money for Peter Jok

Hawkeye senior made 22 of 23 in 35-point game vs. Indiana

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IOWA CITY — Someday soon, robots will rule the world.

Indiana’s men’s basketball team must have felt like one was owning them Tuesday night in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Peter Jok’s machine-like free throw-shooting devastated the Hoosiers. He made 22 of 23, and sank 11 in overtime as Iowa beat Indiana, 96-90.

At this level of basketball and higher, you seldom find a great foul shooter who isn’t a great player. Look at the top six foul shooters in the NBA this season. Stephen Curry, Paul George, Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard.

Those are six of the best players alive.

Jok is fourth in Division I free throw-shooting with 140-of-152 for 92.1 percent. He has taken 50 more attempts than any of the top three, and 73 more than leader Phil Forte of Oklahoma State.

The 22 made free throws broke the 55-year-old Iowa record of Don Nelson, who had 21 in a game against Indiana.

“The ESPN woman told me about that (after the game),” Jok said. “I don’t really care about that.”

His teammates did, and with good reason. The rest of Iowa’s team is shooting a combined 63.2 percent from the line this season. You know, like mortals do.

“I thought Pete was phenomenal,” Nicholas Baer said.

“Twenty-two of 23, that’s impressive,” said Christian Williams.

Baer and Williams were impressive themselves, doing a variety of good things and making big plays down the stretch in a team win. But it was Jok who scored 15 points in the overtime — 15 points in an overtime! — drawing foul after foul and making free throw after free throw.

“It’s free points,” he said about free throws. “That’s the easiest shot you can get.”

But here’s the deal about basketball: No one ever came out of the womb a great shooter.

“In the summer he’s in the gym morning, noon and night,” said teammate Tyler Cook, who had 14 points Tuesday and made 8 of 11 free throws himself to elevate his season percentage.

“He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever met in my life. He’s put in the work, and he deserves everything he’s getting.”

Iowa’s single-season free throw percentage leader is Matt Gatens, who made 90.4 percent of his tries in 2008-09. Jok currently has that eclipsed by 1.7 percent.

The Hawkeyes’ career leader is Luke Recker, who made 87.3 percent of his 212 attempts here. Jok is at 88.4 percent, and has taken 123 more free throws than Recker.

Fran McCaffery had a word for it after Tuesday’s game. “Perfection,” he said.

That isn’t completely true, but it sure is close.

“The first time I saw him play was as a freshman in high school,” McCaffery said. “He’s always had an unbelievable stroke. He has been a great shooter. You know, again, I can’t speak to anything before that, but ever since I’ve known him, he’s a shot-maker.

“I mean, his form is textbook. He’s got great confidence in it. But it comes off his hands so nicely, and he shoots it the same way every time. Everything you’ve ever heard a shooting coach talk about, his follow-through, where he puts his hands, his elbow. I mean, it’s perfection.”

Iowa needed every one of Jok’s 11 free throws in regulation to go in the basket for the Hawkeyes to make it to overtime. Then he popped in 11 of 12 in the extra period.

“I wanted the ball in my hands,” he said. “I wanted to get to the free-throw line as often as I can.”

Jok says he has never studied any other great foul shooters, and isn’t particularly interested who leads the NBA in free throw-shooting or how they do it. Why overcomplicate things?

“I go to the line, take one dribble, and take a shot,” Jok said.

OK, he did miss one early in the overtime.

“I thought it was good,” he said. Can you blame him?

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