NEW YORK — Three minutes into Thursday night’s game, Oregon freshman center Bol Bol blocked Iowa junior guard Isaiah Moss’s 3-point attempt. Bol then picked up the loose ball, dribbled the length of the court and made a baseline jumper on the other end. It was the type of play that have NBA scouts projecting the 7-foot-2 Bol as a lottery pick in next June’s draft.
It was also an anomaly.
The Hawkeyes upset the No. 16 Ducks 77-69 in the 2K Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden in large part because they improved their outside shooting and kept Bol in check.
Iowa made 10 of 28 3-pointers, with eight players chipping in with at least one from beyond the arc. During their first two games, the Hawkeyes connected on just 12 of their 43 3s.
The Hawkeyes sealed the victory from the free-throw line, connecting on 29 of their 33 attempts, including 28 of 30 in the second half.
Iowa plays again here on Friday in the tournament’s championship at approximately 5:45 p.m. CT against Connecticut (3-0), which defeated No. 14 Syracuse 83-76 on Thursday night. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
The teams last met in November 1999 when Iowa defeated No. 1 and reigning national champion UConn 77-71 in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden. The Hawkeyes have only two other victories over top-ranked teams.
If the Hawkeyes beat the Huskies on Friday, they will be 4-0 for the first time since the 2013-14 season, when they won their first seven games.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
As they have all season, the Hawkeyes had a balanced scoring attack and handled Oregon’s full-court pressure defense. Jordan Bohannon had a team-high 16 points, while Luka Garza had 12 and Ryan Kriener added 11 off the bench. Tyler Cook contributed nine points and nine rebounds.
“I thought we did a really great job moving the ball and finally getting the right shot each possession,” Bohannon said. “We’ve got to thank the bigs a lot, too. We worked the ball inside and they kicked it out. They were big-time on the glass getting offensive rebounds.”
The Hawkeyes were impressive on defense, as well, holding the Ducks to 13 points below their season average and nine points below last season’s average.
Ehab Amin led Oregon with 25 points and made 5 of 9 3-pointers, but the rest of the team only connected on 1 of 9 treys. Bol, the son of former NBA center Manute Bol, scored six of the Ducks’ first 13 points and blocked four shots in the opening five minutes, but he didn’t do much else after that. He finished with 14 points, five rebounds and four blocks. He also spent long stretches of the second half on the bench, suffering from apparent leg cramps.
“The guy’s like 7-9 with an 8-foot wing span and with ball skills, as well,” Cook said. “Personally, I haven’t seen anybody like that. Anytime you play against guys like that who are unique in their own way, it presents different challenges, but our coach put together a good game plan for us to defend him. I think the bigs and the guards really did a decent job of executing that game plan.”