IOWA CITY, Iowa – After an uncharacteristically lackluster effort in an exhibition loss to Division II Augustana last week, Iowa forward Jarrod Uthoff promised coach Fran McCaffery it wouldn’t happen again. The senior made good on it Friday night.
Uthoff scored all 21 of his points in the first half of the Hawkeyes season-opening, 76-59 win against Gardner-Webb in front of an announced crowd of 14,209 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. He added six rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
"I had the mindset before the game to just come in and be aggressive," Uthoff said. "I was just coming at them from the get-go. I wanted to make a statement with this game. It’s the first game of the year and I think we all wanted to make a statement as a team."
Adam Woodbury added 11 points and six rebounds for the winners. He scored eight points in the second half.
"That guy (Uthoff) did everything in the first half. There’s not much more I could have done," Woodbury joked. "I’ll let him takeover and do what he does, man. Twenty one in the one half, I mean, that’s pretty damn good. I was trying to get him open, looking for him and then in the second half he looked for me."
Iowa Point Guard Mike Gesell only scored four points on three shots but he matched a career-best with nine assists against just three turnovers. The Hawkeyes received production off the bench with freshman Ahmad Wagner scoring six points and grabbing eight rebounds (six offensive) in nine minutes, sophomore Dom Uhl adding six and six and redshirt freshman Nicholas Baer netting six points.
The only damper on the night came when starting wing Peter Jok left the game with an apparent ankle injury.
"Hurting," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said when asked about his junior.
McCaffery said it was too early to tell the severity of Jok’s injury but he didn’t think it was going to keep him sidelined long term.
"The key will be (Saturday); see how he feels (Saturday)," McCaffery said. "Right now, it’s hurting. See how he feels (Saturday). And then we’ll make a decision on Sunday whether he’s going to go.
"I don’t think it’s going to keep him out for three weeks or anything like that."
McCaffery indicated that he’d likely move Brady Ellingson into the starting lineup if Jok weren’t able to play on Sunday.
Gardner-Webb provided the Hawkeyes with a stiff challenge in the game’s first 20 minutes Friday. The lead changed hands 10 times and the score was tied seven times before the intermission. The Runnin’ Bulldogs crashed the backboards, holding a 20-18 advantage in rebounds, including 9-7 on the offensive end before the break.
Iowa responded with 26-19 second-half rebounding edge, which included a 9-5 bulge on the offensive glass. It also clamped down defensively, holding the visitors to 22 points on 5 of 27 field goal shooting in the final 20 minutes.
"Happy with the defense in the second half. Not so much in the first half," McCaffery said.
The Hawkeyes opened up their lead with a 10-2 run to start the second half. Jok got things started with a pair of three-pointers.
Gardner-Webb trimmed its deficit to seven with 11 minutes to play, but the home team stepped on the gas again with 13-4 spurt during the next four minutes to take a 67-51 lead with 7:12 on the clock. Woodbury notched six points in the run, including hitting four foul shots in as many attempts.
"I thought Woody, his free throws in that one stretch, were really key. He got fouled twice, 4-4. That was big time," McCaffery said.
Iowa returns to the court on Sunday at 4 p.m. when Coppin State comes to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Here are Friday night’s interviews: