NOTRE DAME, Ind. — If you had told Fran McCaffery that Tyler Cook wasn’t even going to play and that Peter Jok was going to have perhaps the worst shooting night of his life, the Iowa coach might not have even bothered to take his team to the Joyce Center on Tuesday night.
Instead, it ended up being one of the most encouraging 14-point losses of his long coaching career.
Freshmen Jordan Bohannon and Cordell Pemsl combined for 41 points in their first career starts as Iowa held a lead well into the second half before a veteran Notre Dame team took control and registered a 92-78 victory over the Hawkeyes in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Junior forward Bonzie Colson collected 24 points and 17 rebounds and got plenty of scoring help from Steve Vasturia (22), Matt Farrell (16) and V.J. Beachem (16) as the Fighting Irish remained unbeaten at 7-0.
Iowa (3-4) fell below the .500 plateau for the first time since McCaffery’s debut season in 2010-11, but the head coach said he was “really encouraged by a lot of things I saw.
“I thought we had a lot of really good individual performances …’’ McCaffery said on his post-game radio show. “I thought for 32 minutes our attention to detail and the game plan was very good.’’
At the top of the list of good performances was Bohannon, who knocked down a career-best seven 3-point field goals, scored 23 points and matched a career high with seven assists while turning the ball over just once.
The 6-foot-1 freshman from Linn-Mar called the game “a big step forward.
“It’s quite a jump going from high school to the Big 10 and playing Notre Dame on the road at Notre Dame but I was just trying to do the right things, trying to execute,’’ he said.
Iowa announced before the game that the 6-foot-9 Cook, the team’s second-leading scorer, would be sidelined for at least three weeks after undergoing surgery on a broken finger.
McCaffery had planned to change his lineup for the first time this season anyway and he inserted Bohannon, Pemsl and Isaiah Moss into the starting unit with Jok and Nicholas Baer.
It didn’t pay immediate dividends as Notre Dame jumped to a 41-26 first-half lead but the Hawkeyes then scored the last 13 points of the half to make it 41-39. Bohannon hit two 3-pointers to begin the run and Jok then clicked off seven straight points in his only sustained streak of success in the game.
Pemsl, who made 8 of 9 shots from the field and scored 18 points, took over early in the second half and scored 10 straight points inside to give the Hawkeyes a 52-50 lead before the Fighting Irish final responded.
They put together a run of 10 straight points that included two drives to the hoop by Vasturia and the Hawkeyes never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
The Irish put the game away with free throws, making 30 of 33 shots at the foul line in the contest.
Jok, who was coming off an epic 42-point effort Saturday against Memphis, managed to score 15 points but he was 4 for 20 from the field. He even missed two free throws after making his first 24 foul shots this season.
But McCaffery came away from the game pleased anyway. He especially liked the fact that the Hawkeyes committed only six turnovers after having 15 or more in each of the first six games of the season.
“I thought our team was really together, really pulling for each other tonight,’’ he said, noting that morale wasn’t quite so high coming out of two losses in last weekend’s Emerald Coast Classic.
“I’m really proud of them for that because that wasn’t fun,’’ he said. “That was not a fun trip to Florida.’’