Associated Press, December 29, 2017
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) A once-heavy snowfall started to die off outside, but for Northern Illinois in Carver-Hawkeye arena against Iowa, it felt like a blizzard on Friday night.
The Hawkeyes' hot shooting and stingy defense blanketed the Huskies in Iowa's 98-75 win.
"We were really smart with our passes and we pushed the ball in transition but not really forcing anything," Jordan Bohannon said. "And we really didn't make any silly mistakes with the ball."
The Hawkeyes (9-6) tied a program record with 34 assists, knocked down shots at a stellar rate, and found balanced scoring as they coasted for a win over the Huskies (7-6).
Luka Garza had 25 points and didn't miss a shot on eight attempts, while Tyler Cook finished 6 of 7 for 17 points – an effective one-two punch from the big men.
"Whenever I go in there, I'm going to play as hard as I can," Garza said. "Whatever happens, happens. That's how I've always played in my career."
Garza's shooting included three 3-pointers, something head coach Fran McCaffery hasn't seen out of too many forwards with a 6-11 frame.
"His energy level was phenomenal," McCaffery said. "You watch him run and attack the glass at both ends, every possession. He was moving without the ball very well (and) posting hard. . He had 25 points in 16 minutes. You don't see that very often."
In its losses – both in nonconference and initial Big Ten games – Iowa found itself falling behind early, but against Northern Illinois, it was a complete switch.
Right from the get-go, everything clicked for the Hawkeyes. Iowa jumped out to a 13-0 lead within the game's first three minutes.
The Huskies elected not to handle Cook with double teams at the start of the game, and he took advantage, outmuscling single defenders for points in the paint. Northern Illinois did double team him as the game wore on, but not before Iowa built a considerable lead.
Cook knocked down a pair of uncontested jump shots during that quick three-minute stretch, something uncommon from the sophomore who has more typically relied on his strength and post proficiency.
But Cook may be looking that way more often in the future.
"It opens up the floor for not only myself, but for the rest of the guys," Cook said. "I get guys to close out on me and then (it opens the floor) for other guys as well. The more I take and make that shot, the more I think it'll open up the game for myself."
The rest of the first half followed suit. The Huskies could not keep up with the Hawkeyes, whose open shots proved to be too much for Northern Illinois. Iowa's record-setting assist total equated to transition buckets and makes from all over the court.
THE BIG PICTURE
Iowa: From here on out, only Big Ten contests remain. Iowa won its fifth straight to conclude the nonconference season, a run that followed a four-game losing streak.
Northern Illinois: The Huskies now fall just one game above .500 on the season. German's performance is a bright spot, however. The sophomore guard was on pace with his season average entering Friday's contest (19.8 points per game) against arguably the best competition Northern Illinois has faced this year.
"We've had good days in practice, but in a game, no, that was the best I've seen us move the ball," Cook said.
HE SAID IT
As Garza's makes piled up, so did his energy level. McCaffery explained that Garza proved to not only be a spark off the bench, but a contagious one.
"He was infectious to the rest of the team," McCaffery said.
Maishe Dailey's electric plays brought the Carver crowd to its feet, but on one play in particular, the 14,665 in attendance held their breath.
Dailey rose for an emphatic baseline dunk, but was hit in the head on his way to the rack and fell hard to the deck.
The sophomore exited for the locker room and did not return, but McCaffery explained he's fine. He was cleared to go back into play, but the coach didn't want to risk further injury in a game already at hand.
Iowa faces Michigan on Tuesday in Iowa City.
Northern Illinois hosts Kent State on Tuesday.