IOWA CITY — It’ll be a poster. It’s got to be.
Ryan Kriener took a great pass from teammate Cordell Pemsl right underneath the basket in the second half Sunday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Iowa forward went up and dunked as he was fouled, hanging onto the rim with his right hand.
One second, two seconds, three seconds. Had to be at least five.
Certainly long enough for every photographer in the building to get a shot. All the while he was staring directly at his guys on the Hawkeyes bench.
They were going crazy.
“Safety,” Kriener deadpanned, after 25th-ranked Iowa’s 93-51 nuclearization of Kennesaw State. “Didn’t want to come down and twist an ankle or anything like that. I wanted to make sure it was clear in the zone. It was a safe landing.”
And a great game for the senior from Spirit Lake. His best as a Hawkeye.
Kriener scored a career-high 20 points, making all nine of his field-goal attempts, one from 3-point land, and his only free-throw attempt. Throw in five rebounds and a pair of blocked shots and assists, and the final game of 2019 couldn’t have gone any better.
By the way, this all was accomplished in just 16 minutes and 53 seconds of court time off the bench.
“That’s the type of player he is, that’s the type of player we see every day in practice, that I go up against every day in practice,” said Iowa’s Luka Garza. “He pushes me, I push him. I have confidence in him when he catches the ball in the post. Or really anywhere on the court you can score, he can score. Just really excited for him to get that career high. Obviously, how efficient he was was tremendous. I don’t even think I’ve had a game like that. Nine-for-nine is pretty damn good.”
You can’t beat it.
“Don’t miss a shot, don’t have a turnover, there’s not a lot to complain about,” Kriener said. “I think our team really got it going early, and it really helped set it up for me. I had some easy ones early that got me going. Once you get a few falling early, it’s easy to get into a rhythm.”
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Iowa (10-3) will need some more games like this from Kriener as it heads into strictly Big Ten Conference play the rest of the way. That includes a Saturday matinee against No. 20 Penn State at the historic Palestra in Philadelphia.
“Ryan impacted the game immediately when we put him in,” said Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery. “He hits a big 3. Screen and roll, he gives you a big target, he runs the floor. But the thing that I think is most impressive about him is his defense. He blows up actions that he knows through scouting that they are going to run. He takes advantage of his length and his experience.”
The Hawkeyes had an absurd 64 points in the paint, shooting 60 percent from the field against an outmanned opponent with a 1-12 record. Garza didn’t quite reach another double-double but finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, with Joe Wieskamp adding 18 points.
Iowa had 14 steals and 27 assists. That ain’t bad.
Neither was the crowd: a season-high 15,056.
“They deserved a break, after the tough stretch we had prior to Christmas,” McCaffery said of his team. “We’re still a little banged up. So I thought it was important that we go home and be with our families, get some rest and come back with the right mindset. I thought we had a great workout on the 26th and the 27th. Had a really good one yesterday.”
“This is probably the best shape a team has been in since my whole time here coming off the winter break,” Kriener said. “That speaks a lot to everyone’s commitment. As a senior, that’s just one of those things that means a lot to me. Everyone is taking it extra serious this year. This is my last year, I want to make that NCAA run. Everyone was in getting workouts and stuff in after Christmas, and that is just something that really didn’t happen my previous three years here. So that’s awesome.”
Even without Jordan Bohannon and Jack Nunge, out the rest of way because of hip and knee surgeries, respectively, it seems these guys expect to continue winning. Iowa is 2-0 now without Bohannon, who decided after the Iowa State win Dec. 12 to call it a season and redshirt.
“Since June, we have had our entire roster at practice one day,” McCaffery said, unsure of exactly what day. “So that shows you the kind of toughness this team has mentally. Really proud of them, but we’ve got 18 tough games coming up, so we are not patting ourselves on the back. We’re just staying focused and keep grinding.”
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