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IOWA CITY — The new guard is establishing itself with the Iowa men’s basketball team.
Call it a tandem, actually, and one of the two guards isn’t new. But junior Ahron Ulis is playing the best ball of his career for the 5-1 Hawkeyes, and freshman Dasonte Bowen has quickly made an impact.
Bowen had a career-high 9 points in 12 minutes last Friday in Iowa’s 74-71 win over Clemson in the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla. The next night, Ulis made 7 of 8 shots and scored a career-high 15 points in Iowa’s 79-66 loss to TCU. Bowen added 8 points.
Off the bench, both guards played more minutes against the Horned Frogs than starters Patrick McCaffery, Tony Perkins or Payton Sandfort.
Boston’s Bowen hasn’t looked a bit intimidated by the college game in his first season out of a New Hampshire boarding school. Chicago’s Ulis was in Iowa’s rotation last season, but is playing more minutes and better ball than in his previous two years here.
“I thought (Ulis) was terrific down there,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. “Really fought defensively.
“He was looking for his shot. He was making threes. He was making pull-ups. He was getting to the rim.
“He's playing with great confidence. I'm very happy with him.”
Iowa didn’t shoot well in that tournament, but Ulis’ jumper was a bit of a welcome revelation.
“The sky’s the limit,” Ulis said. “I’m always ready to go farther and farther, no matter where I am.”
Bowen, meanwhile, appears to be ahead of the typical learning curve.
“I think as I continue to adjust to the college-level style my game will continue to improve,” said Bowen, “as I think it has.
“I got called on a lot in Florida and I was ready to perform. I think as the season goes and as I get a bigger role, I’ll increase my play as well.”
“He's a really good player,” McCaffery said. “I'm giving him a pretty good amount of playing time and would like to play him even more. I just think he's terrific, and it's great to watch him grow.
“He's still learning, but he plays with an aggressive mindset, which is exactly what we want from him.”
The mood in the Iowa camp didn’t seem blue Monday after the Hawkeyes experienced defeat for the first time two days earlier. They shot poorly over the two Florida games, were out-rebounded 41-28 by TCU, and had an uncharacteristic 15 turnovers against the Frogs.
The turnovers, said Iowa senior Connor McCaffery, were “an anomaly.”
“I do think a lot of them were unforced errors that were just lapses on our part. Those are things that you can correct and adjust, and I think we will.”
Iowa gets back at it Tuesday night when it hosts Georgia Tech (4-2) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It’s the last year for the event, which dates to 1999. ESPN and the Big Ten part ways after this season. Thus, bye-bye to the Challenge.
“We'll find some good teams to play,” Fran McCaffery said. “Won't be a problem. Who knows how many league games we're going to end up playing down the road? Everything is changing.”
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