116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Last December at Iowa State, the Iowa men's basketball team coughed up a 20-point first-half lead, a 14-point halftime advantage, and an eight-point edge with just under two minutes left.
It was a crew that started four seniors and a junior, and it lost that game. That was a good Iowa team, an NCAA tourney team.
The Hawkeyes who built a 15-point halftime edge Thursday night in Carver-Hawkeye Arena were a collection of kids and senior Peter Jok. Going against a Cyclones squad that started five seniors, Iowa didn't buckle in belting their 25th-ranked foe from the west, 78-64.
This was a not-good-yet Iowa team, one projected by no one to finish this season in the NCAAs. This had been a defense-optional Hawkeyes club, and the type of defense they played in every previous game against a brand-name opponent was loose.
Iowa allowed a total of 51.6 percent shooting from the field over its four games against Seton Hall, Virginia, Memphis and Notre Dame. All, as you would expect, were losses.
Jok, meanwhile, was Jok. He had 23 points, his play towering over all the ISU vets.
'I'm really happy for the team, more than anything,' Jok said. 'Nobody in the country thought we'd win except for us.'
'From the beginning,' Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said, 'I think he was pretty determined that we were not going to lose this game.
Jok's value was never more pronounced Thursday than when he was taken out with 12:20 left and his team ahead 55-39. Just 70 seconds later, the Cyclones were seven points closer to the lead.
Jok was sent back into play, and made a 3-pointer 20 seconds after re-entry to push Iowa's lead back to 12 points. It was cut to seven, but that was as good as it got for the Cyclones.
Iowa State senior point guard Monte Morris just wasn't the Full Monte this night, going 4-for-15 from the field and not cracking Iowa's half-court defense nearly as often as you or he would have expected.
Morris is a star with a body of work that stretches over four seasons, including three wins over the Hawkeyes. But he didn't star this night, nor did his fellow seniors.
Jok set a winning example, but several young Hawkeyes stood up and were counted on both ends of the floor. Redshirt freshman guard Isaiah Moss was hyperaggressive when he saw cracks in the Cyclone defense and collected 14 points.
'He's a great finisher,' Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. 'He's got great confidence in his ability. He gets there quickly.'
Freshman point guard Jordan Bohannon didn't cower in a matchup against Morris he was expected to lose. When Iowa State did pull within 60-53, Bohannon made a 3-point bomb with 5:55 to go.
'I knew I was open and I let it go,' said Bohannon.
Like Moss and fellow freshman Cordell Pemsl (11 points), Bohannon has what you want in players of any age, which is more self-belief than hesitation.
They have had their struggles, to little surprise. They will have more. But they now know what it's like to put things together against a good foe.
Iowa State had been significantly improved on defense this season, holding opponents to 34.6 percent shooting. But Iowa managed plenty of easy scores. It's doubtful Steve Prohm had ever sounded as irked as the Cyclones' coach as he was after this game.
'Transition,' Prohm said. 'Transition, go look at all the baskets. That's the main way they score, that method or Jok. That's their two main weapons. Transition, transition, transition, transition. ... They shot layups, uncontested layups.'
As for ISU's offense, forward Deonte Burton said 'It was really nonexistent. Iowa played brilliant defense, too, but it was mainly us.'
'We were bad tonight,' Prohm said.
And the Hawkeyes were good. This game probably won't define either team. But for the moment, it changes how both are viewed.