IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — No. 22 Iowa can unofficially declare itself state champion after bulldozing Iowa State and Northern Iowa.
In likely the last matchup between the Hawkeyes and the Panthers for the foreseeable future, Iowa showed how good it can be when it plays to its full potential.
Tyler Cook had 17 points and 13 rebounds, Luka Garza scored 17 and Iowa cruised past Northern Iowa 77-54 on Saturday for its second straight win.
Freshman Joe Wieskamp added 10 points for the Hawkeyes (8-2), who opened the game with a 25-7 run and never looked back.
“This is about getting better every day. That’s our challenge moving forward,” Cook said. “Regardless of who we’re playing, every time we step on the court we’ve got to get better.”
This was the last scheduled game between these two long-time rivals, with Iowa citing the Big Ten’s 20-game season as the reason. They had split the last 14 meetings — but the bigger and more athletic Hawkeyes ran roughshod over the scuffling Panthers (4-6) from the opening tip.
Northern Iowa missed 20 of its first 23 shots, and by then Iowa was up 29-10 in the nightcap of a doubleheader that saw Iowa State beat Drake 77-68 in the early game.
The Hawkeyes pushed their lead to 58-30 early in the second half and rolled to their second consecutive in-state win. Iowa beat the Cyclones 98-84 at home in its last outing on Dec 6.
Wyatt Lohaus led Northern Iowa with 15 points, but freshman star A.J. Green had just two points on 1-for-8 shooting.
“I really tried to pressure him. Hopefully we got him a little frustrated,” Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon said about Green. “Make it a really tough look if he was going to make a basket and I had a lot of help from bigs switching off on screens.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Iowa: The state’s annual doubleheader began, not so coincidentally, soon after the Hawkeyes went to Cedar Falls and got pummeled. It ended with one of the most decisive Iowa wins over the Panthers in recent memory. If Northern Iowa was this easy to beat every season, the Hawkeyes would probably keep it on the schedule.
Northern Iowa: The Panthers’ talent level has slipped since it nearly reached the Sweet Sixteen a few years ago. Green will be one of the best players in the Missouri Valley someday — perhaps as soon as later this season — but it doesn’t look like he’ll get a bunch of help. “When you miss a shot, you always think the next one’s going in. They did a pretty good job trying to deny me the ball. You’ve just got to keep shooting,” Green said.
ONE THOUSAND FOR COOK
Cook, a junior who also had five assists, reached 1,000 career points early in the second half. He also posted his 12th career double-double and went 6 for 7 from the floor and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line. Cook explored going pro in the offseason, but it’s clear that, at least so far, his decision to return is working out for both himself and the Hawkeyes. “Cook is playing about as well as anybody in the country. There can’t be but a handful of guys in the country doing all that he does for their basketball team,” Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said.
Iowa finished the annual Des Moines doubleheader at 6-1. Its only loss was to Northern Iowa in 2014. …Bohannon also reached a milestone, making his 200th career 3-pointer. ..Iowa improved to 36-10 against the Panthers, notching back-to-back 23-point wins.
Reserve Iowa forward Cordell Pemsl sat out with knee discomfort after returning to play against Iowa State. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said that surgery that would end Pemsl’s season is still a possibiliity. “He just didn’t feel good. I’ve said before, it’s literally day to day with him,” McCaffery said.
Iowa might move up a spot or two after dominating its only game of the week.
Iowa hosts Western Carolina on Tuesday.
Northern Iowa hosts Grand Canyon on Wednesday.