Now the season really begins.
Iowa’s 85-59 men’s basketball victory over Cal Poly Sunday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was the Hawkeyes’ fifth game, four of them wins. The loss was 93-78 to DePaul, which is 6-0 and looking quite legit. The four wins were against teams that will never have ESPN’s Jay Bilas or Dick Vitale at one of their games this season.
The question is if the Hawkeyes’ upcoming stretch of seven consecutive formidable games will start Thursday in Las Vegas without starting forward Jack Nunge.
Nunge’s right knee apparently buckled knee late in the first half Sunday and he went to the Carver trainers’ room. He rejoined his teammates on the bench early in the second half, but did not play again. After the game, Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Nunge would have an MRI Monday.
“Praying for him and hope he’s all good,” Iowa junior center Luka Garza said after the game. “He’s definitely a big part of what we wanted to do this year. It’s unfortunate. I don’t even want to talk about that right now.”
Nunge is a 6-foot-11 third-year sophomore who red-shirted last season. He is averaging 6.0 points and 4.6 rebounds.
Thursday, the Hawkeyes play Texas Tech in the Las Vegas Invitational. That will be followed by another game at the Orleans Arena Friday, against Creighton or San Diego State. Texas Tech is 5-0, is seventh in the nation in scoring margin, and has the distinction of being last season’s national runner-up.
After Vegas, Iowa plays at Syracuse, at Michigan, Minnesota at home, at Iowa State, and Cincinnati in Chicago. A mettle-tester of a stretch, to put it mildly.
“At this level,” Hawkeye freshman guard CJ Fredrick said, “you want to play the best and Coach put us (against) the best. We have a tough stretch here, but we’re ready for it.”
Sunday’s game, on the other hand, is one few of us will speak of in the future. Cal Poly (1-5) of San Luis Obispo was down just 25-21 with 4:38 left in the first half, but trailed 35-25 at halftime and was methodically quashed after that. Garza had 18 points. Connor McCaffery had seven assists and three steals.
Fredrick made all five of his 3-point tries, and had career-highs of 21 points and five assists. He swished a 3-pointer on Iowa’s first possession.
“Big,” Fredrick said of the initial shot. “Big for any shooter. I was kind of shocked I was that open. I was like ‘I’m gonna shoot this.’ ”
Senior Iowa shooting star Jordan Bohannon watched Fredrick’s marksmanship from the sideline. Bohannon sat out with what the Iowa basketball Twitter account termed a “precautionary measure” due to “hip soreness.”
Playing back-to-back days against first-rate competition later this week would appear to be a challenge for Bohannon.
“Hopefully,” Fran McCaffery said, “we’ll get him ready to play the first one. Then we’ll worry about the second one after that.
“He’s a guy that’s really worked hard to get where he can be somewhat effective, and there’s going to be times when he needs relief.”
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