After-thoughts from Iowa’s season-opening 77-63 victory over UMKC:
--The Hawkeyes announced before the game that 6-foot-11 sophomore Jack Nunge would redshirt this season. It’s absolutely the best thing he could do both for himself and for the team. It appeared as though Nunge might be the odd man out in the battle for spots in Iowa’s rotation. Head coach Fran McCaffery would still have used him but it might have been for 10 minutes in one game and perhaps four in the next. This way he doesn’t burn a year of eligibility and he’ll be in position to fight for playing time next season when Nicholas Baer and probably Tyler Cook and who knows who else is no longer on the roster. As McCaffery has often noted, this kid has huge potential. He has center height, guard ball skills and above average shooting ability. He just needs to get stronger and more physical and this gives him time to do that. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see him contend for a starting job next season.
--McCaffery said one thing about Nunge following the game that doesn’t ring true. He said he thinks it’s better for a player to redshirt in his second year on campus, as Nunge is, rather than his first year. Really? Many of us can come up with examples of players who were better players because they redshirted as a freshman — Frank Kaminsky, Ethan Happ, Jarrod Uthoff, Nicholas Baer — but I’m hard-pressed to think of many players who did it this way unless they were forced to do so because of an injury.
--Tyler Cook did not have a fantastic game in the opener but he continued to show his intent on being an all-around player. For most of the game, he was content to get the ball to teammates against a defense that was geared to stop him. As in the exhibition game against Guilford College, he led the Hawkeyes in assists. Cook only attempted seven shots in the entire game and all four of his made field goals came in the final nine minutes. He also had a career-high three blocked shots and drew nine fouls from UMKC all by himself. No one else on either team was fouled more than three times.
--Were we surprised at all that Muscatine freshman Joe Wieskamp scored 15 points in his first college game? No. Not particularly. Having seen Wieskamp a lot at the high school level, we think this could be a fairly ordinary game for this season. He;ll have a lot of nights when he does much more.
--One Iowa player who was a bit of a disappointment was junior guard Isaiah Moss, who finished with three points in 15 minutes and was a minus-2 in a game his team won by 14 points. He hit his 3-pointer with just a little more than two minutes gone in the game, then sort of disappeared. At the end, when the Hawkeyes were trying to hold onto about a 10-point lead, they had Connor McCaffery and Jordan Bohannon in at the two guard spots.
--Nicholas Baer didn’t have an overwhelming night statistically — three points, six rebounds — but he made a couple of the biggest plays of the game. With UMKC closing to within 35-33 early in the second half, Fran McCaffery threw five bench players onto the floor and on consecutive trips up the court, Baer got his hand on UMKC passes, stealing the ball and sparking a 17-5 run that turned the game around. Iowa only had three steals in the entire game but those two ended up being very important.
--Junior center Ryan Kriener had probably one of the best games of his career, finishing with six points and eight rebounds and providing a strong presence inside on a night when it appeared starter Luka Garza might still be struggling a bit with his conditioning. Kriener’s performance further reinforced the fact that Nunge is doing the right thing. If Kriener continues to play like this, the Hawkeyes don’t really need Nunge.