By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There was a nine-point second-half deficit and an eight-plus minute scoring drought, but the University of Iowa men’s basketball team found a way to post its second Big Ten win this season.
The Hawkeyes trailed 51-42 with 10:12 remaining before putting the clamps on Rutgers in a 68-62 victory Sunday afternoon on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa’s 1-2-2 press and zone defense gave the Scarlet Knights fits, allowing the Hawkeyes to outscore Rutgers 26-11 over the final nine minutes to improve to 10-7 overall, 2-2 in league play.
“(The 1-2-2) produced stops then we started getting a few in a row and that led to easy buckets in transition,” said freshman Cordell Pemsl, who finished with 13 points and three blocks in 31 minutes. “Our main goal was to continue (getting stops) and we did.”
You could have heard a pin drop in Carver during the first 10 minutes of the second half. Rutgers used its athleticism and played to its strengths, driving and dishing to build a 46-41 lead with 14:28 left. The lead stretched to eight when Corey Sanders hit a 3-pointer at the 13:57 mark, making the score 49-41.
Down 51-42 with 10:12 remaining, Iowa found life. Junior Dom Uhl gave the crowd a lift with two free throws and senior Peter Jok’s ended the 8:06 field goal drought at the 8:24 mark to cut the deficit to five.
The Hawkeyes fought their way back to tie the game at 55 when Jordan Bohannon drove and found Pemsl cutting to the basket for a layup. Pemsl completed the and-one to tie the game with 4:08 to play.
Iowa’s pressure then forced back-to-back Rutgers turnovers and Hawkeye run-outs. Bohannon’s scoop layup gave the Hawkeyes the lead and he followed with a steal before finding Jok for a breakaway slam to put Iowa up 59-55.
The Hawkeyes were clinging to a 51-59 lead when Nigel Johnson misfired on a 3-pointer, but Deshawn Freeman snatched the offensive rebound. On the put back, Uhl swatted Freeman leading to a Baer jumper on the baseline to extend Iowa’s lead and essentially seal the victory.
“(Dom) did everything we needed him to do and then some,” said Pemsl. “He came out and was hitting shots, passing the ball and defending well, and had a bunch of huge blocks down the stretch. That was a big reason we won this game.”
“He was the man today,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “He was the difference in the game without question.”
Uhl reached double figures for the first time this season, finishing with 10 points and eight rebounds. He also had five of Iowa’s nine blocks. Jok led Iowa with 18 points and 11 rebounds to post his third double-double of the season.
Bohannon had eight points to go along with a career-best eight assists.
Rutgers led 14-8 seven minutes into the game before Iowa hit a hot patch. Consecutive 3-pointers by Isaiah Moss and Jok gave the Hawkeyes a 30-22 lead with 5:13 left in the half, but Rutgers closed strong, scoring 10 of the final 12 points to tie the game at 32 at the break.
“We weren’t active on the defensive end, especially in the first half,” said Bohannon. “We had one little run, but after that we slowed back down. They went on the run to start the second half, but once we got in that full-court press that sparked our momentum offensively.”
The Hawkeyes shot 43.4 percent from the floor for the game, made six 3s, and went 16-of-23 from the free throw line (Rutgers was 2-of-4). The Scarlet Knights out-rebounded Iowa, 44-36, and had a 40-26 advantage in points in the paint.
Iowa returns to action Thursday, hosting No. 20 Purdue at 8 p.m. (CT).