When I sat down to write this little post the day after Iowa's win, I still didn't know how to describe what took place. Sure, it was a bit boring (I think I saw Adam Woodbury yawn walking out of a timeout), a bit slow-paced (47 fouls from a whistle happy, zero-tolerance-for-any-sort-of-hand-to-hand-defense officiating crew that refused to let either team get into a flow), and honestly, for the majority of the first quarter, there was a lack of -- take your pick -- energy, intensity, activity, animation, moxie, or fire.
That is, until Fran McCaffery released the Baer. And then let Ahmad Wagner out to terrify the neighborhood in the second half.
While I realize Gardner Webb is low in KenPom's team rankings (#254) and I know better than to dig too deep here, this was still a 20-win team last season that carried a lead late in the first half while giving everyone outside of Uthoff trouble.
But what did we learn? What can we take away?
Day After Tomorrow Thought #1: Ahmad Wagner just earned himself more minutes after that second half performance. He was the energizer bunny with a head band. He was the Windex man. He was a Redbull cartoon.
In all honesty, he reminded me a lot of Shane Battier. In his nine minutes on the floor, Wagner grabbed six offensive boards, two more on the defensive glass and snuck in two blocks all the while adding six points. IN NINE MINUTES. He was every where on both ends of the floor. He made himself big in the middle of Gardner Webb's zone and was a nuisance on the glass.
I swear I'm not being an over embellishing homer when I say that Wagner was a part of every single loose ball and missed shot during his time on the floor. Take a look at the play below. There was eight minutes left in the game and Iowa was only up nine. Not only does the freshman block the shot on the defensive end, he snags the attempt out of thin air, outlets it, runs the floor and gets himself into perfect position to grab one of his six offensive rebounds:
In the next clip, watch how Wagner creeps into the lane slowly and then turns it on and over powers a weak, one armed box out attempt:
Will and timing. Power and finesse. It's all there. And with Iowa's need for someone -- anyone -- that will go up and grab boards consistently, Wagner must be a shinning star during the staffs film sessions.
I can't help it, I'm so pumped up about this performance. Last one, I promise...
This kid didn't even play in the first half!
McCaffery said before the season that he hoped Adam Woodbury would play "30 to 36" minutes per game. I'm thinking those extra 10-15 minutes (Woodbury played 22 last night with ZERO personal fouls!!!) will now be going to the freshman with the headband.
Day After Tomorrow Thought #2: Jarrod Uthoff is a gamer. Sure he looked less than enthused against Augustana, but that was surely an anomaly. If it weren't for him and a resurgent Dom Uhl in the first half, the Hawkeyes would've been in trouble. The senior leader was the most aggressive I've seen him in some time and was a matchup nightmare for Gardner Webb -- often using his size, length and gifted offensive ability to his distinct advantage. But the best part was that he forced his way to the line. I wrote about this during the off season, but if Uthoff can consistently get to the line like Aaron White did last season (7-7 at the stripe on Friday) and get opposing big men into foul trouble, Iowa will hang in every single game this season.
Oh and his Dirk-like fadeaway jumper is a college basketball treasure.
Day After Tomorrow Thought #3: Speaking of UHL-TOFF, I really like them playing the four and five together. They were a handful on offense for Tyrell Nelson (four fouls) and L'Hassane Niangane (five fouls). Uhl was zipping around the perimeters -- finishing a beautiful cut to the hoop off the wing for a dunk -- and Uthoff was getting loose off multiple set screens. They were spunky together on the defensive end too which is encouraging.
The only complaint I would have about this small ball lineup would be that the rebounding could use some work as they were responsible for boxing out some behemoths. Time for some Izzo-type lessons.
Day After Tomorrow Thought #4: Speaking of rebounding (outside of Wagner), Iowa looked like a middle school volleyball team on the glass -- especially during stretches in the first half. There was a whole lot of tipping going on. Wagner changed the magnitude of this after halftime but for the first twenty minutes Iowa was once again out rebounded.
I feel like I'll be writing about this a lot.
Day After Tomorrow Thought #5: Here's hoping that Peter Jok's ankle isn't anything too serious. McCaffery said as much after the game, but this team needs him offensively. He set the tone for the second half by nailing down back-to-back three pointers right out of the locker room before landing awkwardly chasing after a loose ball.
He truly has a beautiful jump shot when he sets his feet and lines up his shoulders.
Day After Tomorrow Thought # 6: But if it is going to be a few games to get Jok out of the boot, Nicholas Baer looks like a decent enough fill in. Baer was another one of McCaffery's "break in case of emergency" players in the second half, throwing the walk-on, redshirt freshman in after Jok's injury. I'm not lying when I say he literally checked into the game and nailed a three pointer:
He played 13 minutes and was 2-2 from long distance. With the Hawkeyes shooting 22% from three in the first half, he was a revelation and will be looked upon to continue to stretch the defense out.
This game raised my confidence (even if it is ever so slightly) for the future of this team -- especially coming off of that Augustana debacle. Uthoff filled it up and made good on his promise to the coaching staff that he would correct his exhibition performance and the now engaged point guard Mike Gesell was fantastic leading the offense -- contributing nine assists, four rebounds and three steals. But man, those youngins. I couldn't get them out of my head that night and again the following morning. Let's see if they can build of this performance as the non-conference schedule trickles on.