IOWA CITY — We already knew Peter Jok could shoot 3-pointers, right?
It turns out Iowa’s senior guard has added at least one more skill to his arsenal during the off-season: Lob passes.
Jok served up perfect lobs to younger teammates Tyler Cook and Christian Williams on first-half fast breaks Friday night as the Hawkeyes romped to a big halftime lead in a 91-74 victory over Kennesaw State in their season opener at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Oh, Jok also fired in 27 points, which might end up being pretty close to his average this season. He knocked down 11 of 19 shots.
And it wasn’t all just silky smooth 3-point shots either. Jok scored on a baseline drive, knocked down several mid-range jumps and generally showed what head coach Fran McCaffery has been telling us for months: That the Hawkeyes’ only highly experienced player is going to be a much more complete player in his final college season.
But he insisted the lob passes aren’t really something he has worked on much.
“Not really,’’ Jok said. “I just throw it up there. We’ve got an athletic team so I just feel if I throw it up there they can catch it.’’
Admittedly, this was against a team that plays in the Atlantic Sun Conference and won just 11 games last season.
But Jok’s effort and that of the entire Iowa team was more impressive than a 22-point conquest of Division II Regis University in an exhibition game last week.
Other than 17 turnovers, some dubious free throw shooting by a couple of players and the fact that the Hawkeyes let one guy (Nick Masterson) make seven 3-point field goals for a team that didn’t make any in its own exhibition game, there wasn’t too much to criticize.
The Hawkeyes also forced 21 turnovers, more than in any game last season, and shot exactly 50 percent from the field.
About the only really tense moment came about 4 ½ minutes into the game when the 6-foot-9, 253-pound Cook, one of Iowa’s most hyped freshmen of the past decade or so, soared in to try to rebound a missed 3-pointer by Nicholas Baer. He landed flat on his back under the basket and laid there for a couple of minutes while the crowd held its breath.
Cook admitted to being a bit frightened himself.
“I could tell when I got up in the air, it wasn’t going to be pretty,’’ he said.
He finally walked off looking a bit dazed, went to the locker room for a few minutes, then returned and went right back into the game.
Cook didn’t have great offensive numbers in his college debut — he committed four turnovers and his only field goal came on one of those lob passes from Jok — but he led the Hawkeyes with 10 rebounds.
Even more encouraging was the fact that he wasn’t the only young frontcourt player to do good things.
Former Dubuque Wahlert star Cordell Pemsl showed some moves and muscle around the hoop and even came racing down the floor as the middle man on the fast break a couple of times. He finished with six rebounds and 10 points in his college debut and would have had even more if he hadn’t been 2 for 7 at the foul line.
And sophomore Ahmad Wagner scored a career-best 12 points, many of them during a second-half run when the visiting Owls were trying to get back in the game. He also registered career highs with four assists and four blocked shots.
That’s not to say that there weren’t other little points of concern.
The Hawkeyes still had all those turnovers and several defensive lulls in the contest, something McCaffery lamented following the exhibition victory.
“Seventeen turnovers. That’s too many,’’ he said. “Turnovers and defensive lapses. We were good enough, tough enough, smart enough to overcome it, but we can’t do that.’’
Williams, who handed out five assists in the first half and clearly has established himself as the starting point guard, hardly played in the second half because of a stiff back although both he and McCaffery said he could have continued to play had he been needed.
But it was a solid beginning for a team trying to fit in a lot of very young pieces around a slick, sharp-shooting, lob-throwing senior guard.
“We feel pretty good, but we’re not satisfied,’’ Williams said. “We still have yet to put it all together. We’re still playing in spurts.’’
“We’ve got a long way to go,’’ Jok added. “We’re just got to keep working and keep getting better as a team.’’