Dec. 19, 2015
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By JAMES ALLAN
DES MOINES, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team blocked its way to its eighth win — a 70-64 victory over Drake on Saturday afternoon in the opening game of the Hy-Vee Big Four Classic at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Hawkeyes tallied a school-record 14 blocks, including nine in the first half. Redshirt freshman Nicholas Baer and senior Jarrod Uthoff accounted for 11 swats. Baer had a career-high six blocks to go along with 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Uthoff finished with 10 points and five blocks in 21 minutes.
“I don’t think of myself as a shot blocker, per se, but today I had some opportunities,” said Baer, who was 5-of-10 from the field with three 3-pointers. “Somewhere Gabe Olaseni is smiling when he sees that block total. It was a good day.”
“Nicholas is a guy that’s going to go out there and give you his all and not try to do too much, just play his game,” said senior Mike Gesell, who paced the team with 17 points, making 7-of-8 field goals and dishing out four assists.
“The reason he got six blocks today is because he was in the right positions. He does a good job of playing the right way and playing his role.”
Senior Anthony Clemmons was the fourth Hawkeye in double figures, finishing with 10 points.
The Hawkeyes shot 46.7 percent from the field, including an 8-of-21 performance from 3-point range. Iowa committed just three turnovers and forced 11 Drake miscues, turning it into an 18-0 advantage in points off turnovers. Iowa also had a 38-22 advantage in points in the paint.
Drake won the rebounding battle, 39-31, and shot 40 percent. Eleven of the Bulldogs’ 24 field goals came from 3-point range.
After playing to a 45-all tie over the first 27 minutes of the game, Baer opened and closed an 8-0 run with 3-pointers, giving Iowa a 53-45 advantage with 10:28 remaining. The Hawkeyes pushed their lead to 11 on a Uthoff layup with 8:51 left, but Drake didn’t fold.
Behind Reid Timmer, the game’s leading scorer with 25 points, the Bulldogs closed the gap to 58-54 with 5:31 before Iowa stretched the lead to 66-56 with 3:58 left on back-to-back 3-pointers from Baer and sophomore Dom Uhl.
Timmer followed with five straight points to get Drake to within 66-61 before Ore Arogundade drained a 3-pointer from the wing to make it a one possession game (66-64) with 1:37 remaining.
Iowa went to Uthoff, who converted a layup to push the lead to four before Gesell put an exclamation point on the win. Holding the ball at the top of the key, the guard waited near midcourt before taking Abrahamson off the dribble and flushing home a dunk to seal the victory.
“(Gesell) is going to keep coming, he was the difference in the game,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “Anything short of that type of performance then it would have been hard to win this game.”
Drake led for the game’s first eight minutes before Baer’s steal and fast-break dunk gave Iowa its first lead at 15-14 with 11:45 left in the first half. Clemmons capped off a 14-0 Hawkeye run with a 3-pointer, giving Iowa a 22-14 lead with 7:56 remaining.
The Bulldogs then caught fire, making four consecutive field goals to trim the lead to 26-25 and the game was tied at 30 at the half. Uthoff played just five minutes in the first half because of foul trouble.
Abrahamson, a Northwestern transfer, was the only other Bulldog in double figures, scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Iowa (8-3) returns to action Tuesday, hosting Tennessee Tech at 5 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Court.