IOWA CITY, Iowa — Former Iowa coach Tom Davis took to the court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the first time since leaving the program five years ago amid cheers and standing ovations. And if the emotion of those moments had carried through to the second half, the new Drake coach may well have handed the Hawkeyes the first loss of their young season.
The Bulldogs got off to a strong start hitting 11 of 33 from the field for 32 points, and they beat Iowa in the turnover war 12-10. They even took the lead in the last quarter of the period, while the Hawkeyes made three more shots for 36 points and out-rebounded Drake 25-17 entering the break.
But that was the first half and shear emotion can only go so far. The taller and more experienced Iowa squad “settled down” and capitalized on its ability to control the court and make plays against the press, defeating the Bulldogs 74-56 on Tuesday.
“Well, I’m glad that’s over,” said Iowa coach Steve Alford. “We tried to downplay (the anticipation for the game) as much as possible, but we only had one day to get ready for it. I think the guys didn’t do real well with that in the first half, but the guys did a much better job in the second half.”
“I was real pleased with our ball club in the first half,” Davis said. “I thought we did a good job hanging in there. But for us, we would have had to have played a pretty strong game to get the job done here.”
For the Hawkeyes, who’ve shined offensively through the exhibition season and at their season-opening 107-80 win over UNC-Asheville on Sunday, the game fell short of their expectations on that side of the court due to 23 total turnovers and a seven percent drop off in shooting efficiency between their two games.
The turnovers and shooting accuracy shortfalls were in no small part attributable to the press the Bulldogs levelled against their opponent. The game was the first time the Hawkeyes had been, in the words of forward Greg Brunner, “out-worked, out-hustled and out-played”.
But like Brody Boyd in the first half of the game on Sunday, it was Nick DeWitz, a first-year forward, who gave the Hawkeyes the needed spark to get through the opening period.
DeWitz, a native of Chandler, AR., didn’t get caught up in the emotion of the former Iowa coach’s return, and pushed through all of his ten points in the first 20 minutes. The sophomore also had six rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot through the game.
“I don’t know much about Dr Tom and that whole situation,” he said. “I just came in and started playing. And when you’re playing against the press, that’s when you have to comeback and play.”
“I thought Nick really had some solid play,” said Alford. “We had a lot of inside guys who couldn’t finish in the first half, and Nick gave us a good shot in the arm. He was able to carry us. Hopefully, that’s where our depth can help us.”
Indeed, DeWitz’s play highlighted one aspect of the Hawkeyes that enabled them to pull out a victory: their depth. The Iowa bench contributed 19 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, not to mention a lot running that certainly exhausted Drake down the stretch.
“The bench really sparked us,” said Brunner. “Nick played really well, and Mike Henderson also came off the bench and sparked us.”
Henderson, a freshman guard, added seven points, three assists and two blocked shots and rebounds.
Overall, the second half yielded a 9.3 percent increase in shooting accuracy for the Hawkeyes, while Drake fell from hitting one in three shots to barely making one in four. And just like two nights ago, it was sophomore forward Pierre Pierce to lead the Iowa offense.
Pierce went 6-of-11 for a team-high 17 points. He had nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocked shots as well. Defensively, Pierce held one of Drake’s leading offensive players, Lonnie Randolph, to 1-of-3 for just four total points.
“I think we got a little more patient (in the second half),” he said. “Our depth started to wear them out, and we were smarter with the ball on the press. In the second half, we did a better job of getting it to the hole and getting it inside.”
On Saturday, Iowa plays in the John Wooden Tradition tournament against 17th-ranked Louisville at 12:30 p.m.
“We’ve had two games now, and I thought we were awfully efficient offensively in game one. We didn’t do a lot of things we wanted to do defensively though,” said Alford. “In (game two), we did some good things offensively we just turned the ball over too much. But defensively, we were very efficient. Now we have to pull it all together.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com