IOWA CITY — If nothing else, the Iowa basketball team got a taste Tuesday of the sort of intensity and enmity that it probably will face several times during the upcoming Big Ten season.
The Hawkeyes had to scrap and fight and battle and hit free throws while coming away with an 84-73 victory over a spunky North Dakota team in their next-to-last non-conference test at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
They did about everything except shake hands with the opposing team when it was all over.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery pulled his players out of the traditional post-game handshake line because of things that took place in the final minutes of the contest.
“I wasn’t pleased with the way the game ended and things that happened,’’ McCaffery said. “I have a lot of respect for (North Dakota coach) Brian Jones and certainly Jeff Horner and I know they don’t teach those things.’’
Peter Jok and Jordan Bohannon, each of whom scored 18 points for the Hawkeyes, appeared to be jostled at the end when it became obvious that Iowa would win. And as Nicholas Baer stood holding the ball with three seconds left on the clock, North Dakota’s Corey Baldwin angrily wrenched it from his grasp.
“I told the guys they can’t get caught up in it,’’ McCaffery said. “We don’t need Pete getting knocked to the floor, don’t need guys getting up in Jordan’s face, don’t need Baer’s head getting chopped off. We don’t need that. The game’s over.’’
Jones, a former Rock Island High School and Northern Iowa star who was an assistant at Iowa under Steve Alford, said his players may have gone a little too far.
“They’re not malicious kids, just good kids who want to compete,’’ he said.
He said he thought McCaffery was just frustrated at the end.
“I was frustrated as well,’’ he said. “I worked here for eight years and wanted to make a good showing. Coach Horner played here, too. It was just the heat of the moment.’’
Ultimately, the whole experience of being involved in a game that was chippy at times may have been just what the Hawkeyes needed as they prepare for the physicality of the Big Ten.
“I do think the way they challenged us will help us,’’ McCaffery said. “They’re big and strong. They’re going to challenge us the way teams will in the Big Ten.’’
Jok made all 10 of his free throw attempts and continued his strong rebounding with eight boards, but he seemed to be affected by the aggressive defensive style of the Fighting Hawks. He made just 4 of 15 shots from the field.
“That was part of their game plan to be aggressive, especially with me,’’ Jok said. “They played hard. That’s a good team right there. But we got the win. It was kind of ugly but a win’s a win.''
The Hawkeyes (7-5) seemed to be in complete control of the game after reeling off 16 straight points in the first half. They held North Dakota scoreless in 12 straight possessions, forcing eight turnovers in the process, and continually scored in transition to open a 37-18 lead. Six different Iowa players scored in the spree with Ahmad Wagner scoring three times on dunks.
“They got to us in the first half,’’ Jones said. “We were really sloppy with the basketball …
“It’s hard to get your defense set when they’re running like that … Those are catastrophic turnovers where they’re live ball turnovers and they just run by you.’’
But the Fighting Hawks lived up to their nickname, countering with a 10-0 run of their own to trim the margin to 41-30 at halftime.
They kept battling in the second half and twice got to within seven points.
They closed the gap to 45-38 on back-to-back 3-point field goals by Quinton Hooker and Josh Collins early in the half before Iowa’s Cordell Pemsl scored twice inside to end that threat.
The Fighting Hawks closed to within 64-57 with 9:16 to go on three Geno Crandall fast-break layups and two Hooker free throws, but Iowa then put the clamps on them defensively.
The visitors went nearly seven minutes without a field goal and the Hawkeyes gradually pulled away on two Jok free throws, a Jok 18-footer a Bohannon drive, a Bohannon free throw, a Brady Ellingson 15-footer and two Wagner free throws.
That made it 75-59 with four minutes remaining.
North Dakota didn’t get any closer than nine points the rest of the way.
“That was a great game for us to get ready for the Big Ten,’’ Jok noted.
Jok and Bohannon combined to score 19 straight points for Iowa at one juncture of the second half. Ellingson added 10 points for the Hawkeyes, including several key plays down the stretch.
Hooker led North Dakota (5-5) with 18 points with Connor Avants adding 17. Drick Bernstine finished with 10 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists.