IOWA CITY — It wasn’t quite the 40-point, empty-the-bench-early blowout that Iowa fans might have expected when they walked into Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday night.
But chances are, they saw what they came to see: A sparkling debut by the Hawkeyes’ 6-foot-11 freshman duo of Luka Garza and Jack Nunge.
The new kids combined for 33 points and 18 rebounds as Iowa struggled to contain William Jewell College for a little more than a half before rolling to a 105-81 victory in a preseason exhibition game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Both youngsters admitted to having a few jitters at the start of the game, but all of that was gone by the second half. Garza scored 14 of his 17 points after halftime and Nunge had 11 of his 16 in the second half.
“There was a few butterflies before the game, but once you get out on the court and run around it goes away," Nunge said.
“I think it just took the first half to get a little comfortable," Garza said. “We weren’t playing the way we were supposed to, and we let them stick around a little too long. But then in the second half we took care of business."
Nunge really made maximum use of the 17 minutes he played, making all six of his shots from the field and all three of his 3-point field goal attempts while sharing rebounding honors with Garza with nine apiece.
“It seemed like he did everything right," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Thinking back, I can’t remember Jack making a single mistake. That’s pretty special for a freshman."
Tyler Cook, who added 16 points for Iowa, said the freshmen were “awesome."
“They were big-time aggressive when they got out there, just like they have been," noted Jordan Bohannon, who led the Hawkeyes with 19 points. “That’s what we want them to do"
Despite the play of the two freshmen, the Hawkeyes didn’t exactly run William Jewell out of the arena. The Cardinals, an NCAA Division II program that returns only two starters from a 9-17 season, actually held a 46-45 halftime lead after Nick Bradley drained a 3-point field goal from the right corner as the horn sounded.
The visitors had weathered a 14-0 scoring run by Iowa in the middle of the first half.
William Jewell widened the lead to 57-51 in the opening minutes of the second half, but when Garza and Brady Ellingson sparked another 14-0 run, the game finally turned into the rout it was supposed to be.
“This is a hard team to guard but I thought as the game went on, our guys did a better job defensively …," McCaffery said. “It was a very, very good situation for us to grow.
“There were some mistakes that need to be corrected. That’s what these games are for."
The Hawkeyes ended up shooting 69.7 percent from the field in the second half after hitting 40.6 percent in the first 20 minutes. Their rebounding margin in the second half was 25-12.
“We kind of got off to a slow start on defense," Nunge admitted. “We were playing good offense, but we just couldn’t stop them. … Our defense in the second half led to our offense, and I think that’s what jump-started us."
As the game progressed, it became apparent that there could be a third freshman — McCaffery’s son, Connor — making significant contributions for the Hawkeyes.
Connor, who played 18 minutes while backing up Bohannon on Friday, was supposed to redshirt this season while focusing on playing for the Iowa baseball team this spring. However, Coach McCaffery conceded that may change now with backup point guard Christian Williams announcing Thursday that he plans to transfer.
“It’s a possibility," McCaffery said when asked if Connor might not redshirt now. “He hasn’t spoken to (baseball coach Rick) Heller yet."