Amid the disappointing inconsistency of Iowa’s basketball team this season, there has been at least one thing to give Hawkeyes fans an occasional glimmer of excitement and delight.
Tyler Cook has become a poster child for posterizing opponents.
In nearly every game, the Hawkeyes’ 6-foot-9 sophomore has produced some sort of eye-popping, highlight reel dunk.
There was a behind-the-back dribble and two-handed throwdown in the opening seconds against Michigan.
There was a play against Southern Utah in which the left-handed Cook grabbed a loose ball near the free throw line amid four defenders, turned and zoomed to the hoop to slam it down right-handed.
There was a fast break opportunity late in the first meeting with Penn State in which he appeared to be too far from the basket but somehow still managed to posterize Shep Garner.
There a was play against Southern University where he hammered one down over the top of three defenders and paused to stare down his victims so intently that he was slapped with a technical foul.
He had six dunks against Drake, five in a loss to Nebraska, four in that first meeting with Penn State.
Cook said he doesn’t really have a favorite dunk although a few stick out in his memory.
“Penn State … I didn’t think I’d make that one,’’ he said. “I just kind of went for it. There was one in the Michigan game that was pretty cool. There’s been others. I can’t really remember them all.’’
Who can? Cook now has 51 dunks in 27 games this season, 101 in less than two full seasons at Iowa.
To put that in perspective, the rest of the Iowa team has 60 dunks over that same span. Freshman Jack Nunge is second on the team this season with nine. Cook has accounted for 62.7 of the team’s total for the two-year period.
They don’t keep records on these things but the most dunks in a single season by an Iowa player that we know of was 60 by Aaron White during his senior season in 2014-15. Cook flirted with that number in his freshman year, getting 50 dunks while missing seven games with an injury.
He has a shot at White’s mark again with four games remaining in the regular season plus at least one game in the Big Ten tournament.
Cook said dunking isn’t even something he practices, at least not any more.
“Earlier in my career I did,’’ he said. “I haven’t always been the most athletic guy, believe it or not. Once you start getting used to dunking and dunking everything, there’s not really too much to it.’’
Maybe. But if you watched a pair of Big Ten 7-footers — Purdue’s Ryan Haarmes and Ohio State’s Micah Potter — miss attempted dunks on Saturday, you know it’s not as simple as it looks.
Cook does not lead the Big Ten in dunks, by the way. Penn State’s Mike Watkins has 64, including nine in two games against the Hawkeyes, but Cook undoubtedly would be among the national leaders if they kept statistics on these things. More than a third of his 288 career field goals have come on dunks.
“I spend most of my time around the basket,’’ he said. “I think I get off the floor really quick. I can really dunk anything around the rim. I just make sure that I’m thinking dunk when I get the ball around the rim instead of just laying it in.’’
While the throwdowns are the most spectacular thing he does, Cook has evolved into more than just a dunk artist this season. He has improved as a passer, defender and perimeter shooter.
“I’ve been really impressed with him,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “He’s a thinker, he’s a worker. He knows he’s good, he wants to be great and he’s making progress to get to that point. I think what you’re seeing with him is a more versatile player at both ends.’’
Streak intact: Jordan Bohannon’s run at Chris Street’s record for consecutive free throws has slowed to a crawl.
Bohannon still has not missed a free throw since Dec. 22, making 30 in a row, but he hasn’t even gone to the line in the past three games. Street’s school record, set in 1993, is 34 in a row.
Bohannon is 59 for 66 for the season, 31 for 32 in Big Ten play, and has not missed a free throw at home since Nov. 16.
Unsung Buckeyes: Ohio State still is not getting the respect it deserves on a national level. The Buckeyes won at Purdue last week, already have beaten Michigan State (by 16 points) and sit alone atop the Big Ten standings, but they’re still only the third team from the league in this week’s Associated Press poll.
Coach Chris Holtmann’s team is No. 8 this week, behind No. 2 Michigan State and No. 6 Purdue.
The Buckeyes get another chance to make an impression on Thursday when they face a hot Penn State club, the only team to have beaten them in league play.
Bridges honored: It seems as though every week the Big Ten player of the week is someone who scored a bunch of points against Iowa the previous week, and that’s the case again.
Michigan State’s Miles Bridges is this week’s honoree after scoring 25 points against the Hawkeyes a week ago tonight. He also nailed the game-winning 3-pointer on Saturday against Purdue.
The freshman of the week is Illinois guard Trent Frazier, who scored 32 points against Wisconsin and could end up pushing Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson for freshman of the year honors.