Tyler Cook continued to score points for the Iowa basketball team last week.
He scored 14 points in a victory over Indiana and added a Big Ten career-high 21 in a Saturday night upset of Maryland.
That’s nothing new. The 6-foot-9 freshman has been the team’s second-leading scorer most of the season. What has been different for the past few weeks is that Cook is beginning to do many of the less noticeable things that Iowa coach Fran McCaffery hoped he could give the Hawkeyes.
“I have seen tremendous growth in him over the last three weeks …’’ McCaffery said even before the Maryland game. “I think a lot of people look at it, OK, if he’s scoring, he’s playing great. To me, I look at his complete game.’’
He said that includes how well Cook is running the floor, his defensive effort, his communication with teammates and his total understanding of everything that is happening on the court.
“Then you have to factor in all of that stuff and still have the ability to play in a relaxed way instead of thinking about what you’re supposed to do and what you’re capable of doing,’’ McCaffery added. “I think I’ve seen tremendous growth in that whole process for him.
“That’s because he’s smart and he’s a worker and he wants to be great. He listens to the coaches, not just me but everybody. He listens to the older guys and he asks questions. He’s trying to figure stuff out. It’s a big adjustment, much bigger than anybody thinks and a lot of times, much bigger than the players themselves think. But he’s just continued to grind and that’s been impressive to me.’’
Against Maryland, Cook had a big blocked shot in the second half and a couple of steals, and just seemed more focused on defense than at any other time this season. Ironically, he did not have a dunk in the game — only the third time in 16 Big Ten games that has happened — but he scored at least six of his 21 points simply by outhustling the Terrapins’ big men to the other end of the court for easy layups.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign was Cook’s rebounding effort. McCaffery said before the season that he felt the team needed to get 8 to 10 rebounds a game from Cook and that hasn’t happened. In the eight games leading up to Maryland, he had snared only 26 rebounds.
But he matched a career high by grabbing 10 boards against the Terrapins.
Cook admitted last week that it has taken him some time to recognize the importance of what he describes as the “non-physical side of basketball.
“It’s more of a mental game now than it was back in high school,’’ he said.
Potential seeds: Every Big Ten team still has two more regular-season game to play this week, including several that could impact Big Ten tournament seeds. But if the season ended right now, the Hawkeyes would be the No. 8 seed and would play their first game against Illinois, a team that has beaten them twice.
Iowa, which finishes with a game at Wisconsin on Thursday and a home game Sunday against Penn State, still has a chance to rise as high as the No. 5 seed and could fall as low as No. 11, depending on how the remaining games come out.
In order to reach the fifth seed, the Hawkeyes would need to win their last two and have Minnesota and Maryland both lose their last two. They would only be seeded 11th, which would mean they would need to play on the first day of the tournament, if they lose their last two games and have Nebraska, Penn State and Indiana all win out.
Summer plans: The Hawkeyes still have some work to do this season, but their summer-time plans already have been made. They will take a tour of Germany, Switzerland and Italy in August and play a series of games along the way.
NCAA Division I basketball teams can take a foreign trip every four years and the destination in this case was a no-brainer. Four year ago, they went to England because that’s where center Gabe Olaseni was from and this time they will be going back to the stomping grounds of senior-to-be Dom Uhl.
“If we ever have a player from a foreign country, and we have a chance to go on a foreign tour, then we'll go there,’’ McCaffery said. “We'll always go wherever that person's from.’’
Uhl grew up in Frankfurt, Germany, although he spent his last two years of high school in New Jersey.
“It’s definitely exciting to go back home, especially this year with the team,’’ Uhl said.
The 6-9 forward added that although most of his family is still back in Frankfurt, he really has come to think of the United States as home.
“I would like to go over there to play (after graduation), but I definitely would like to live here after that …’’ Uhl said. “I can’t really explain it. I just like the lifestyle here.’’