IOWA CITY — There were times in its season opener Thursday night when the Iowa basketball team played exactly the sort of hard-nosed, in-your-face defense that Fran McCaffery was hoping to see.
There were fewer times when they showed the sort of offensive efficiency he has come to expect.
And then there were times in which the Hawkeyes did so many things wrong that the exasperation was clearly visible in their head coach. Just a minute and 48 seconds into the second half he removed his entire starting lineup en masse and angrily plopped them on the bench.
"There was a point there where we were playing with no swag at all," McCaffery said.
It all turned out fine in the end as the Hawkeyes got a second-half lift from their bench and a sparkling debut from freshman Joe Wieskamp, and finally ground out a season-opening 77-63 victory over UMKC at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Wieskamp scored 15 points in his college debut, including four 3-point field goals in the first half and a flying dunk off an offensive rebound in the second half.
But it was the energy brought by the second unit of Connor McCaffery, Nicholas Baer, Cordell Pemsl, Maishe Dailey and Ryan Kriener that really put the Hawkeyes on their way to victory.
The Hawkeyes managed to scratch out an eight-point halftime lead despite some offensive struggles, but then they committed three quick turnovers to open the second half, allowing UMKC to slice the margin to 35-33 on a layup by Xavier Bishop. McCaffery called timeout with 18:12 to go and sent in a fresh set of five.
"I would have liked to have played a little better at the start of the second half," McCaffery said. "I think that was obvious by the wholesale changes I made. But that second group came in and picked us up."
Connor McCaffery got a 3-point play, Baer got a couple of steals, Dailey hit a 3 off a pass from Pemsl and Kriener made some big plays inside, and the lead began to grow again.
"We felt like we got hit in the mouth in that first half, and we had to step up the intensity," Dailey said.
"The second unit was great today," added Tyler Cook, who finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, a team-high five assists and career-high three blocked shots. "They came in and gave us a lot of energy. Our first unit didn’t have it. … Those guys went on a run and got stops, picked up the energy and allowed us to come in and finish it off."
Jordan Bohannon contributed 12 points for the Hawkeyes with Dailey adding 11.
McCaffery admitted to being a bit dismayed by the fact that his team had more turnovers (16) than assists (15), and the Hawkeyes shot only 44.7 percent from the field. He didn’t like the fact that they launched more than twice as many 3-point field goal attempts as 2-pointers in the first half.
"I thought we had an advantage in the post that we could exploit, and we were jacking 3s …," McCaffery said. "You can’t be settling for 3s when a team is up and in your face the way these guys were."
On the other hand, almost everyone in the Iowa locker room felt there was improvement on defense, which was the major off-season point of emphasis.
"I’d say we’re pleased but not satisfied," Dailey said.
"We kind of joked around about it in the locker room," Kriener said. "This was the first time in a little bit that offense has been our problem. Our offense was a little stagnant, and our defense held us in there. We were all really proud about that."