By RICK BROWN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — With leading scorer Peter Jok sidelined with a bad back, someone had to step up for the University of Iowa men’s basketball team Saturday against Ohio State.
Brady Ellingson did, but the sophomore guard had plenty of company as the Hawkeyes took care of Ohio State, 85-72, on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It’s a testament to the talent we have,” Ellingson said after making 5-of-7 3-pointers and scoring a team-high 17 points. “We play against each other every day in practice. We know how good we are. Tonight we played unselfish, and it showed. We had the next man in mentality, and we knew we had to be that much better.”
Ellingson was one of four Iowa players to score in double figures as head coach Fran McCaffery’s team improved to 4-5 in Big Ten play and 12-10 overall.
McCaffery’s message to Ellingson all season has been to be more aggressive offensively.
“He made a concerted effort, starting with the first one he made,” McCaffery said. “He came right off, bang, and kind of set the tone that that’s what he was going to do tonight. I would like to see him be like that on a regular basis, be aggressive and look for his shot. It’s OK if you miss a couple, just keep attacking.”
The other three double figure scorers were freshmen. Ryan Kriener had 14 points, made 6-of-7 shots from the field and also grabbed a career-high seven rebounds.
“Everyone feels good coming off a good game,” Kriener said. “I was glad to come in and do my part to help the team.”
Most impressive were a pair of offensive rebounds Kriener dug out early in the second half. Both second-chance possessions led to Ellingson 3-pointers.
“Brady and I play together every day in practice,” Kriener said. “We’re always on the same team. He’s a good catch-and-shoot guy. If I can ever get him an open look, that’s what I’m going to try and do. If he’s shooting the ball, that’s good for our team.”
Tyler Cook scored 10 of his 13 points the second half, making 4-of-6 shots. Jordan Bohannon scored nine of his 12 points in the first half. That included a deep 3-pointer in the final seconds of the first half that gave Iowa a 40-29 lead.
McCaffery saw plenty of positives in the box score. There was Nicholas Baer’s game-high eight rebounds. Dom Uhl and Cordell Pemsl combined for 11 assists to two turnovers. Iowa had just three second-half turnovers and nine for the game. Baer had three of the Hawkeyes’ five blocked shots.
Iowa shot 50 percent from the field in both halves, and moved the ball with great efficiency for most of the 40 minutes.
“We had 44 bench points,” McCaffery said. “Dom Uhl and Cordell Pemsl, 11 assists to two turns. There are so many things — our shooting percentage and our ball movement was better. There’s a reason why you make 50 percent of your shots. If you move the ball, you’re shooting more open shots.”
Add it all up, and McCaffery’s big-picture take was just as impressive.
“I have a lot of respect for this team (Ohio State), for this program, for Thad (Matta),” McCaffery said. “For us to execute the way we did, I think is a big step for our program.”
The medical staff decided Friday to shut Jok down and see if the rest will help his ailing back. McCaffery said Jok’s availability will be determined on a day-to-day basis.
But Jok was engaged in the locker room before the game, and on the sidelines during it. He encouraged his teammates through good and bad moments.
“He challenged everyone in the locker room to step up,” Kriener said.
Jok, the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 21 points a game, had a streak of 52 consecutive starts end Saturday. This was the first game he has missed since a Nov. 15, 2015, contest against Coppin State.
But his leadership skills were on display, even though his shooting skills weren’t.
“He promised me he would do that,” McCaffery said. “It’s not only what he did, because some guys will do it when everybody is watching. He did it Friday when nobody was watching, and he did it in the locker room when nobody was there. I’m proud of him there.”
The Hawkeyes return to action Tuesday at Rutgers. Tip time is 6 p.m. (CT), and the game will be televised on BTN.