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UMKC Iowa Basketball

Iowa forward Ryan Kriener drives to the basket past UKMC forward Aleer Leek in Thursday night's season opener.

IOWA CITY — For Ryan Kriener, portions of last season are a blur. Literally.

Iowa’s 6-foot-9 junior center suffered two concussions during the course of Iowa’s 2017-18 campaign, and he missed a total of six games because of it.

He’s fine now. And he showed what sort of role he can play for the Hawkeyes on Thursday in a 77-63 victory over UMKC in the season opener at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Kriener came off the bench to finish with six points and a career-high eight rebounds as Iowa (1-0) fought back to win comfortably after leading by just two points early in the second half.

He said he expects a better start today when the Hawkeyes host Green Bay in a 2 p.m. game.

"You could maybe chalk it up to first-game jitters," Kriener said of Iowa's problems early in the game. "We were really excited to get out there and beat up on somebody else besides each other."

Kriener is just happy to be healthy again following a season that was twice punctuated by head injuries.

He suffered his first concussion on Dec. 2 when he was whacked in the face by Penn State’s Josh Reaves. He missed just one game before returning to action, but a little more than a month later he took another shot in a Jan. 17 loss to Rutgers.

"The first one wasn’t too bad. I was able to come back from that," Kriener said. "The second one, since it was so close back-to-back, it took some time. It was really frustrating because every time I tried to get back in the protocol, I’d get to a certain step and I’d fail and have to start all over again."

He said physical activity and bright lights really bothered him. That's what always seemed to trip him up as he tried pass the necessary steps to return to action.

"I remember there was one day at Nebraska where we were in shootaround and I was going through physical activity so I could play the next game and about two minutes in, I got really nauseous after just a light workout," he said. "That’s really nasty stuff. I don’t wish that on anyone."

He ended up missing five games that time. He finally came back and had two very good games late in the season, scoring 15 points in the second half at Minnesota and 14 points in a Big Ten tournament loss to Michigan.

"It was really nice, kind of bittersweet, that I’m finally getting it going and the season already was over," Kriener said.

This season he is firmly entrenched as one of the top two front-court reserves along with Cordell Pemsl behind Luka Garza and Tyler Cook. That situation was solidified Thursday when 6-11 sophomore Jack Nunge decided to take a redshirt year.

"I think my role is what’s it’s always been, is to go in and play as hard as I can for as long as I can and do whatever coach asks of me," Kriener said.

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