Iowa forward Tyler Cook slams down a dunk against Southern Utah University during the first half of a basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Thunderbirds 92-64. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Hawkeyes smother Thunderbirds’ storm

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Iowa cruised to an easy 92-64 victory over Southern Utah on the evening of Dec. 19 in Carver-Hawkeye, thriving in the paint and on the glass thanks to a considerable size and strength advantage.

By Adam Hensley

adam-hensley@uiowa.edu

In the game’s opening minutes, Tyler Cook grabbed an offensive rebound among three Southern Utah players, took one dribble, and slammed the ball home over a Thunderbird.

The next defensive possession, Isaiah Moss poked the ball loose from Southern Utah. Jack Nunge snagged the loose ball and threw it ahead to the streaking Moss, who whammed home the fast-break dunk with ease.

It was just one of those nights.

“There was no let-up,” Hawkeye head coach Fran McCaffery said.

Iowa (7-6) was never in any real danger of taking a loss — the Hawkeyes maintained a comfortable lead over Southern Utah (6-5) for most of the evening in Carver-Hawkeye, winning 92-64.

Luka Garza led all scorers with 17 points off the bench, while Cook and Moss each scored 16 to propel the Hawkeyes over the .500 mark for the first time this month.

The contest marked the third-straight game in which Garza has scored in double figures.

“I think [I’m] just playing with more energy,” the Washington native said. “Not going out there to focus on scoring, just playing as hard as I can. The ball is drawn to me when I do that.”

The Hawkeyes connected on 52 percent of their shots despite only hitting 6 of their 22 3-point attempts. Iowa also weathered the turnover storm, only committing 12 (this was the third game in a row that Iowa committed fewer than 15 giveaways).

The Thunderbirds, however, managed a 39 percent shooting performance. Their biggest downfall came in the rebound game.

“I think some of it’s just more of a concerted effort,” Nicholas Baer said. “Part of it is we have a lot of size, we have a lot of guys who are active, a lot of guys who are fresh — especially our bigs.”

Iowa outrebounded Southern Utah, 48-29. Baer, who started his third game in a row, snatched 10 boards. Cook chipped in 7.

As a team, the Hawkeyes hauled in 10 offensive boards.

“We know we’re a really good offensive rebounding team,” Garza said. “In practice, we’re always grabbing rebounds, and it’s hard to box out each other. We’ve been struggling with that earlier in the year, so I think we’ve made a point of getting to that glass, getting second shots. We want to shoot the ball in transition, and to do that you have to have good rebounders on the glass.”

Iowa scored 13 second-chance points and 15 on the fast break.

The Black and Gold thrived in the paint as well.

The Hawkeyes scored 52 points in the paint (only 12 fewer than the Thunderbirds had in total points). McCaffery said Southern Utah doesn’t typically double opposing big men in the post, but that came as a shock to Cook, who has been double-teamed more often than not this season.

“Surprising? Yes,” he said. “It’s great for me, great for the rest of the low-post guys. That’s kind of what you dream of. It was great to kind of see that for the first time in like nine games.”

In the first half, both Ahmad Wagner and Brady Ellingson went down with ankle injuries. Neither returned to the game.

“They both turned their ankles stepping on a guy’s foot,” McCaffery said. “They were identical. I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think Ahmad’s might be a little worse. Hopefully, they can both make a quick turnaround.”

The Hawkeyes get a quick break before hitting the hardwood on Dec. 22, when Iowa will face off against Colorado in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at 8 p.m.

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