IOWA CITY — As members of the Iowa pep band were walking out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena Sunday afternoon, one of them heaved a sigh of relief from a wild, wearying weekend.
“Do you realize we played seven victory polkas this weekend?’’ he told one of his pals. “Seven. Do you believe that?’’
He was referring to two men’s basketball wins, two women’s basketball wins and, well, maybe they played a couple of extra victory polkas after that stunning football conquest of Michigan on Saturday night.
It was just one of a pile of eye-popping statistical nuggets that came out of Iowa’s 116-84 shredding of Savannah State in the second game of the season Sunday afternoon.
This truly was one for the books.
The Hawkeyes attempted 43 3-point field goals. School record.
They made 18 of those shots. Also a school record.
They handed out 33 assists, which was one short of a single-game record set 32 years ago.
The 116 points are the most by an Iowa team in more than 20 years.
The Iowa bench accounted for 76 of those points. Not many records have been kept on those things, but it’s hard to imagine that isn’t also an all-time high.
Brady Ellingson scored a career-high 23 points while playing only 17 minutes. Freshman Cordell Pemsl converted four old-fashioned 3-point plays on his way to netting 18 points in 18 minutes. Freshman Tyler Cook made his first six shots after going 1 for 7 in his debut Friday night. Pemsl didn’t miss any shots of any kind.
It was the kind of day that left Iowa coach Fran McCaffery feeling pretty good about his team two games into the season although probably nothing was more gratifying to him than to see the embattled Ellingson bust out.
The 6-foot-4 redshirt sophomore endured an injury-filled freshman season and didn’t exactly become a fan favorite while shooting 27-percent from 3-point range last season.
But on Sunday, against an admittedly weak opponent, he was assertive and very, very efficient.
“He's been playing like that really since this year began …’’ McCaffery said. “His efficiency, I mean, he doesn't make mistakes.
“He's defending his position well, sticking his nose on the glass. It's year three. First year, he's hurt. Last year, he had some good games, some not-so-good games. Backed his minutes off as the season went on, he just kept battling. I'm really proud of him.’’
Ellingson often has looked very tentative, but on Sunday he came off the bench shooting. And most of them were going in. He scored 21 of Iowa’s last 34 points in the first half.
He said he doesn’t even think about his struggles of a year ago and said his confidence grew considerably on Sunday.
“It was really high,’’ he said. “I was really open so I got to set my feet and all that.’’
Pemsl may have been even more impressive. While all the preseason talk has centered on Cook as the superstar of Iowa’s freshman class, the 6-8, 250-pound Pemsl outplayed him on the first weekend of the regular season.
He had so many leg injuries and underwent so many surgeries during his last two years at Dubuque Wahlert that he was viewed as a major question mark entering college.
“Not a lot of people intentionally break their femur and then have metal in their knee for the rest of their life,’’ he admitted.
As with Ellingson and many others on this team, he said his confidence has skyrocketed since the Hawkeyes began working out together in June.
“In June, I didn’t even want to touch the ball, honestly,’’ Pemsl said. “You never wanted to mess up. You always wanted to be perfect. But as we’ve progressed through the month of June and July and now that we’re here in November, we’ve just got a lot more comfortable with the ball.
“Coach is always giving us confidence, whether it’s Jordan (Bohannon) at the point or me down low or Tyler down low, just to be confident with the ball, to know that they’re not expecting perfection and that if we go out and play our game like we have been since we were young that we’re going a positive outcome.’’
It’s early. And yes, that team the Hawkeyes beat by 32 on Sunday lost by 42 on Friday night over in Ames.
But it was all very encouraging.
There may be a few more victory polkas on the horizon.