By RICK BROWN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Sunday was a shooter’s dream at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Savannah State played a zone defense, and the University of Iowa fired at will from behind the 3-point line. The Hawkeyes set school records with 18 made 3-pointers and 43 attempts in a 116-84 victory.
“I can’t remember thinking, ‘Well, that was a bad 3,'” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery said. “We used good judgment.”
One player who made the most of the opportunity was sophomore guard Brady Ellingson, who scored a career-high 23 points in just 17 minutes and made 4-of-6 3-pointers.
“They played a 2-3 zone and were pretty active,” Ellingson said. “We got the ball moving well and we have a lot of guys who can shoot.”
Ellingson, whose previous career-high had been 20 points against Coppin State last season, scored 21 while playing 14 minutes in the opening half. For the game, Ellingson was 7-of-9 from the field and also made all five of his free-throw attempts.
“I couldn’t ask for better looks than what I got, quite honestly,” Ellingson said. “The team did a great job of finding me. I got my feet set. I even took a deep breath sometimes.”
Senior guard Peter Jok, sophomore forward Nicholas Baer, and freshman guard Isaiah Moss all made a trio of 3s, while freshmen Maishe Dailey and Jordan Bohannon had two each. Dom Uhl, a junior forward, had the other triple.
Iowa finished the game with 33 assists to 15 turnovers in its final tune-up before hosting Seton Hall at 8 p.m. (CT) Thursday in the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Gavitt event matches Big Ten and Big East schools.
Freshman forward Cordell Pemsl added 18 points and nine rebounds for the Hawkeyes, and he was perfect. He made all seven shots from the field and all four free-throw attempts. That included four conventional three-point plays. He didn’t commit a turnover in 18 minutes.
“If he had made his free throws the other night (he was 2-for-7 Friday against Kennesaw State) he would have had 15 points in 16 minutes,” McCaffery said. “Today, he had 18 points in 18 minutes. That’s efficient. The thing I always liked about him are the things you’re seeing. He’s a skilled big man. He can dribble, pass, and shoot it, and he understands angles. He has a great ability to make a decision in traffic. He knows when to get rid of it, when to shoot it. He’s terrific against pressure.”
McCaffery started recruiting the all-stater from Dubuque Wahlert when Pemsl was in the eighth grade. Pemsl has bounced back from a major leg injury to show the skills McCaffery envisioned many years ago.
Fellow freshman forward Tyler Cook, who finished with 14 points Sunday, got a majority of the attention in the preseason. Cook starts, but the 6-9 Pemsl has emerged two games into the season off the bench.
“I’m just doing now what I have to do to help us win,” Pemsl said. “The media, the social media, the hype, that’s all fun, but at the end of the day, if you’re producing and winning games, that’s all that matters.”
Ellingson redshirted in 2014-15 because of a foot injury. He played 247 minutes last season behind guys like Anthony Clemmons, Mike Gesell, and Jok, averaging 2.8 points.
“Last year was part of the journey, I don’t know that it was a ton of adversity,” McCaffery said. “He played, he didn’t play. He was behind Clemmons, Gesell, and Jok. He was a professional in every sense of the word. That’s how he approaches each day.”
Ellingson said last season was a learning experience, one that makes him a better player this season.
“You can’t get too high, can’t get too low,” Ellingson said. “The season’s long, and a lot can happen.”