The holiday trip to the Cayman Islands didn't go quite the way Fran McCaffery and company would've liked.
The Iowa Hawkeyes dropped their first two games of the season in the Cayman Islands Classic's opening two rounds against Louisiana and South Dakota State before taking down UAB in the seventh-place matchup 95-85. Despite the early losses, the Hawkeyes shot better with each game over the three-day stretch prior to Thanksgiving, which is key as they get set to play in the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday.
Iowa started out against Louisiana shooting just 36.7 percent from the field with 31.6 percent from three-point range, before improving South Dakota State with 50.9 percent from the field and 38.1 from three-point. The Hawkeyes capped the Classic with a superb shooting effort against UAB with 60.0 percent from the field and 61.5 percent from beyond the arc — both season highs.
Jordan Bohannon and Tyler Cook both led Iowa with career nights as they scored 30 and 29 points, respectively against the Blazers.
"I was thrilled with our improvement," head coach Fran McCaffery said to HawkeyeSports.com following the win against UAB. "I felt we were better in day two and better in day three than we were in day one. When you play three games in three days, you want to grow up a little bit and I think we did that."
Sophomore guard Isaiah Moss was the star of the Hawkeyes, scoring 18 points per game thanks to 43 percent from the field. He ranks ninth in the conference with 15.8 points per game through six games this season.
Despite shooting only 36.7 percent (22-for-60) in the tournament, Iowa still ranks second in the Big Ten from beyond the arc with a 42.7 percentage — nearly five points ahead of the next closest Michigan State (37.8).
"We're spotty right now, great in some segments, not so great in some segments," junior Ahmad Wagner said after the loss against South Dakota State before being out of the lineup against UAB with a sore shoulder. "That's something we have to fix -- our consistency -- if we're going to be a great team, which we can be."
The consistency in all aspects, but especially from beyond the arc, will be lead by freshman Jack Nunge (T-8th, 50.0) and sophomore Bohannon (10th, 48.7) who both rank within the top 10 in the conference in three-point percentage.
Iowa is set to run into Virginia Tech's high-powered offense in Tuesday's ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Hokies have scored 90 points in five of six games this season and leads the entire NCAA in scoring offense with 102.0 points per game — ahead of No. 7 Florida who has been scoring 99.5 points per game. They also lead the NCAA in field-goal percentage, hitting at a 58.3 percent clip ahead of No. 15 Xavier's 56.8 percent. Virginia Tech's only loss was against St. Louis.
Hawkeyes' Big Ten Leaders
- Luka Garza is T-8th with Michigan State's Jaren Jackson with 8.2 rebounds per game.
- Isaiah Moss (2nd, 94.4) and Jordan Bohannon are in the top 5 in free throw percentage in the conference.
- Jordan Bohannon is third in the conference in assists per game with 5.2.
- Jack Nunge is T-8th with 1.5 steals per games.
- Luka Garza T-5th with 2.0 blocks per game.