By Adam Hensley
When Iowa squared off against Alabama State, a Hornet guard took off along the baseline and attacked the rim. He jumped up for a dunk — aiming right for Hawkeye Ryan Kriener — but Kriener wasn’t having any of it.
One of the referees blew his whistle, signaling a foul on Kriener as he swatted the dunk attempt away, and the sophomore turned to the bench and said, “I’m not getting dunked on.”
“He’s a nasty dude,” head coach Fran McCaffery said.
It’s that sort of fire the coach wants off the bench with the second unit (although none of the players coming off the bench think of themselves as second-tier, more of an extension of the starting five).
Kriener, as well as fellow forward Cordell Pemsl, bring that intensity in the post.
“I feel like it’s kind of a toughness thing, it’s a grit thing,” Kriener said. “Coach talks a lot about your mindset. You have to be mentally tougher and stronger than a lot of people. [We] try to embrace that.”
Both players feel as though they’re worthy of starting, but they refuse to let their egos get in the way of their roles.
McCaffery deemed both forwards “unselfish” and believes they like playing that way.
Kriener and Pemsl believe they have a special connection when out on the court together, and they both embody that don’t-take-anything-from-anyone mentality.
“Ryan and I, when we go in together, we definitely have that vibe together where we’re clicking on all cylinders,” Pemsl said. “I consider myself like Ryan, where if I see somebody lined up against me, at no point am I scared or intimidated by him.”
Both forwards bring different skills off the bench.
Kriener said that Pemsl is an extremely physical player and a tough finisher but views himself as perimeter scorer who’s not afraid to mix it up in the paint.
“I’m not afraid to get in a fight on the floor,” he said.
And he’s not lying. One instance in particular stands out to him, during his travel-team days.
His team was in Myrtle Beach for a tournament, and he recalled one player being relentless with his trash-talking until he had enough of it.
“I said, ‘Hit me,’ and he punched me in the face,” Kriener said.
When Iowa takes on Grambling State at 7 p.m. today in Carver-Hawkeye, Kriener probably won’t be punched in the face. But the intensity will still be there, regardless of the opponent.
Iowa hasn’t played a tough nonconference schedule so far (Chicago State and Alabama State), but there are a lot of things the Hawkeyes can focus on tonight.
Ball movement remains one of those points of emphasis, especially with a team looking toward blocks as a top priority.
“Just that extra pass, one more, it going to be really big,” Kriener said.
Grambling State likes to push the ball as well, so Kriener noted that the Hawkeyes will need to get back in transition following a miss, even though the Tigers don’t like to live and die by the 3-pointer.
The Tigers only took 13 3-point attempts in their first game of the season, while opponent VCU took 34, making 15.
Following its game against Grambling State, Iowa will travel to the Cayman Islands for the Cayman Islands Basketball Classic, playing Louisiana on Nov. 20 and either Wyoming or South Dakota State the following day.