IOWA CITY — No Peter Jok?
With its scoring leader absent from the starting lineup for the first time in 53 games, the Iowa basketball team found the flow and ended a three-game losing streak with an 85-72 victory over Ohio State Saturday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes shot 50 percent from the field for just the second time in their nine Big Ten games and collected assists on 21 of 32 baskets in a game which coach Fran McCaffery labeled his team’s most complete 40 minutes of basketball this season.
“Coach told us to go out there and just hoop, move the ball, make them work on defense, have fun with it,’’ forward Tyler Cook said. “That led us to a lot of great shots.’’
Jok missed the game with back problems which have been bothering the Big Ten’s top scorer for the past couple of weeks, but the Hawkeyes used the perimeter touch of Brady Ellingson and Jordan Bohannon to grab a lead midway through the first half which went unchallenged by the Buckeyes.
Ellingson connected on three of his five 3-point baskets during the game’s first 11 minutes and Bohannan, who complemented that effort with four 3s of his own, moved Iowa ahead to stay at 19-16 on a shot from behind the arc with 11 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in the opening half.
Ellingson capped a 9-3 run which left Iowa in control 28-19, taking a feed from Nicholas Baer before knocking down his third 3-pointer of the game.
“We all had to step up and be more aggressive with Peter out,’’ said Ellingson, who led a group of four Hawkeyes in double figures with 17 points. “We kept moving the ball, looking for the best shots we could find.’’
Jok, who had not missed a start since sitting out a game against Coppin State three games into the 2015-16 season, watched it all develop in street clothes from a spot near the end of the Hawkeye bench.
The senior who had seen his scoring average of 21 points per game dip to 9.3 points over the last three games since first struggling with back problems will be out for an undetermined amount of time.
“It wasn’t my decision. It was the medical personnel who made the call. We will have to go day by day with it and I think the plan is let it go for a little while, but how soon he is back out there is going to be a function of how much progress he makes,’’ McCaffery said, appreciating the encouragement Jok provided teammates both before and during the game.
Jok did spring from his seat frequently starting in the first half, celebrating his teammates’ success following a slow start from the field.
The Hawkeyes hit just two of their first eight shots from the field and endured a four-and-a-half minute drought from the field, but Iowa connected on 13 of its final 22 shots to build a 40-29 advantage by halftime.
“What you saw was a lot more aggressiveness from other people, and that’s what I want them to be,’’ McCaffery said, pointing to the 11 assists Iowa got from Dom Uhl and Cordell Pemsl as an example of the collective effort he saw.
While Ellingson collected 11 of his points in the first half, matching his combined point total from Iowa’s previous seven games, Ryan Kriener scored eight of his 14 and Cook had all but three of his 13 in the second half.
“When your leader goes down, you have to rise to the occasion,’’ Kriener said. “It was about all of us getting it done.’’
Ohio State came no closer than nine points in the second half as Iowa (12-10, 4-5 Big Ten) extended its lead to 72-52 on a three-point play by Isaiah Moss with 7:14 to play.
The Buckeyes (13-9, 3-6) pulled within 78-66 on a Kam Williams 3-point basket with 4:28 to go, a shot answered by Bohannon as he finished off a 12-point game with his fourth score from three-point range.
“We didn’t guard anybody,’’ said Ohio State coach Thad Matta, whose team was led by 17 points from Jae’Sean Tate. “We’d make a shot, then give one right up. I saw us do things defensively I’ve never seen us do. Give Iowa credit, but we didn’t guard.’’