IOWA CITY — If there was any doubt about whether or not Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok would help the Iowa basketball team this season, it only took one half to get the answer.
The two newcomers combined to score 14 consecutive points during a decisive stretch of the first half as the Hawkeyes romped to an easy 82-39 victory over UNC-Wilmington in the season opener Friday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Uthoff, a transfer from Wisconsin, not only led the Hawkeyes in scoring with 14 points but he also collected seven rebounds and blocked four shots. Jok, a freshman from Des Moines, added 11 points.
“We’ve been talking about how talented they are so everybody knows it,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Just to see them go out there in a Hawkeye uniform and play that way was a great feeling for all of us … we needed it.’’
The 6-foot-9 Uthoff, who had not played in a game in two years, said “words can’t describe’’ what it felt like to finally play in an actual college game.
“It was a lot of fun out there,’’ he said. “I definitely missed it the past two years.’’
“He affects the game in so many ways,’’ McCaffery added. “As a shot blocker, rebounding traffic … he covers a lot of ground.’’
It seemed all of the Hawkeyes did that as they completely smothered UNC-Wilmington, which returned four starters from a 10-20 club. The visitors shot just 22.2 percent from the field in the game, only 8.7 percent from 3-point range. At one point in the second half, they were shooting 17 percent (8 for 47).
“As a team, we did some great things out there,’’ Uthoff said. “We got out in the passing lanes, denied their ball reversals and really wreaked havoc on defense.’’
It was a major step forward from last Sunday’s exhibition game with Augustana, after which McCaffery was sharply critical of the way his team played at that end of the court. He liked what he saw Friday a lot more.
“I was thrilled with our defense,’’ he said. “Our defense really set the tone for everything that happened.’’
The Hawkeyes never left much doubt about the outcome as they charged out to a quick 9-0 lead. Then they really took control with a 24-3 scoring splurge that spanned 9 minutes, upped the lead to 34-7 and included a 3 1/2-minute segment in which all the points were scored by the new guys.
Uthoff scored the first points of his Iowa career on a drive to the hoop with 9 minutes, 32 seconds to go in the first half. That was followed by a Jok 3-pointer from the right corner, another Uthoff drive, a Jok dunk, a Uthoff basket on an assist from Jok and a Uthoff three-point play.
By halftime, it was 48-12.
“They took us out of the game early,’’ UNCW coach Buzz Peterson said, pointing to the blend of size and athleticism Iowa put on the floor. “We have not seen that length and we may not see that length the rest of the year. They did a good job of taking us out of everything.’’