By Dallas Jones
IOWA CITY, IOWA – Fresh off the fourth straight NCAA tournament bid, the new look Hawkeyes are here for the 2023-24 men’s basketball season!
The Hawkeyes opened their season hosting the North Dakota Fighting Hawks in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa has won its last 12 regular season openers and are 12-1 in season openers under head coach Fran McCaffery. McCaffery is 11 wins from becoming the winningest coach in Iowa basketball history. Tom Davis has 271 victories as Iowa’s head coach.
One of the biggest questions coming into this season is who will be the leader? Iowa has had an NBA level talent on almost every roster in recent years, now it is time for someone new to emerge. Tony Perkins (12.3), Payton Sandfort (10.3), and Patrick McCaffery (9.8) are the leading scorers returning to the team this season.
The Hawkeyes led the Big Ten and was 18th nationally in scoring offense (80.1). The Hawkeyes have led the league in scoring in seven of the last 11 seasons, including six straight years.
1st half: Scoring is usually the focal point of any Fran McCaffery team and this one seems no different.
Lots of dribble handoff and motion stuff early for this starting unit. When they aren’t standing still and they are attacking the screens they are finding success. Everyone getting involved.
Iowa was off to a hot start as they were 9-17 (53%) from the field and 6-8 (75%) from three in the first ten minutes. Payton Sandfort led all with 13.
After a timeout, Fran decided to put four true freshman on the floor all at once as Brock Harding, Pryce Sandfort, Ladji Dembele, and Owen Freeman entered the game. The unit was joined by Josh Dix and immediately went on a 7-0 run in under 90 seconds.
Many teams, especially young teams, may struggle out of the gate after a long offseason. These Hawkeyes were locked in and ready to go, holding a commanding 56-32 lead into the half.
Payton Sandfot led all scorers with 15, followed by McCaffery (9), Krikke (7) and Bowen (7).
2nd half: It was clear the Hawkeyes wanted to make new starting big man Ben Krikke feel welcomed in his first career game, after putting up seven points in the first half, Krikke came out in the second half and doubled his total in under six minutes. A perfect 3-3 shooting including one from three.
Every one got a chance to be apart of the fun as by the 11-minute mark in the second half, we had five different Hawks in double figures (Perkins, Sandfort, McCaffery, Krikke, Freeman) as they held a 36-point lead.
We got to see extended minutes of the bench unit that consisted of Brock Harding, Josh Dix, Pryce Sandfort, Ladji Dembele, and Owen Freeman.
Harding is clearly a true point guard and his chemistry with high school teammate Owen Freeman is clear. Obviously have to see what it looks like once Big Ten season comes around, but they duo will be exciting for years to come.
There was a point in the second half where you could clearly see that second unit struggling on both sides. During the timeout Fran decided to put his starters back in as the lead sat at 26. The starting unit responded and immediately stretched the lead up to 36 within a couple of minutes.
Playing a lineup that deep will always have some checks and balances, especially with little experience on the second unit.
All in all an overall impressive performance from the Hawkeyes as they won their first match of the season 110-68.
See what they had to say postgame here: