IOWA CITY — Iowa opened its final non-conference homestand by slogging its way to victory over a team that didn’t play like it came in with nine losses.
Tyler Cook scored 18 points, Luka Garza added 15 and No. 23 Iowa beat Western Carolina 78-60 on Tuesday for its third consecutive win.
Freshman Joe Wieskamp scored 10 points for the Hawkeyes (9-2), who forced 26 turnovers and led by as many as 27 points.
“I thought we fought,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “We had to fight.”
Iowa knew that Western Carolina could give it a game after the Catamounts took Furman — the team a spot below the Hawkeyes in this week’s AP Top 25 — to double overtime.
Iowa mostly dashed Western Carolina’s hopes early, using a 28-10 first-half run to go ahead 48-29 — even though the Catamounts shot 65 percent from the field. The Hawkeyes slowly pulled further ahead in the second half, as Maishe Dailey’s layup helped push the lead to 65-38. But the undersized Catamounts kept fighting to make the final score look closer than the game really was.
“They didn’t have enough size to guard all of us,” Cook said.
Marc Gosselin had 17 points for the Catamounts (3-10), the first team in the Southern conference to hit the 10-loss mark.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes announced before the game that junior reserve forward Cordell Pemsl had knee surgery on Thursday that will keep him out for the rest of the season. Pemsl played in the opener and on Dec. 6 against Iowa State, but what Pemsl described as “chronic irritation” became too much to ignore. Pemsl’s absence will weaken Iowa’s frontcourt depth, especially considering that promising sophomore Jack Nunge is redshirting this season partly as an effort to balance the Hawks’ roster moving forward. McCaffery said after the game that junior Ryan Kriener — who lightly sprained his ankle Tuesday– will take Pemsl’s place.
Western Carolina: The Catamounts, who have played just three home games all year, will resume conference play next week with three straight at home.
THE PEMSL PROBLEM
Pemsl’s knee issue stemmed from hardware left in his leg after surgery he had in high school. The Hawkeyes had previously announced he would be done for the season, but Pemsl felt good enough in the run-up to the game against Iowa State — a big one for a native Iowan like him — to give it a go. Pemsl had a major impact too, scoring eight points, grabbing six rebounds and getting involved in two scrums with Cyclones. But a week of rest wasn’t enough time for Pemsl to be ready for Saturday’s 77-54 win over Northern Iowa.
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
McCaffery’s son Connor had nine points and five assists. But the coach also has a son named Patrick, and he set the Iowa City West High single-game scoring record with 41 points on Tuesday while his father was busy coaching the Hawkeyes. Patrick, a 6-foot-8 wing, is a four-star recruit who is expected to make an immediate impact for Iowa next winter.
Iowa held a half-court shot contest in the second half, with a $50 gift card on the line if the fan could hit one in 25 seconds. The guy shooting, who was wearing a black and gold Santa cap, dropped his first try on the top of the square, and the ball bounced in without ever touching the rim.
HE SAID IT
“It was a strange game. I don’t ever remember going into halftime where a team has shot 66 percent from 3 and we were up 19. I don’t think that’s ever happened before — maybe in the history of basketball,” McCaffery said.
Western Carolina plays at Bowling Green on Friday.
Iowa hosts Savannah State on Saturday.
No. 23 IOWA 78, WESTERN CAROLINA 60
At Iowa City
W. CAROLINA (3-10) — Steger 1-3 0-0 3, Dotson 5-11 0-1 10, Gosselin 5-7 5-6 17, Halvorsen 5-9 4-4 16, Gibson 5-8 0-2 12, Sledd 0-1 0-2 0, Myers 0-1 0-0 0, Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Cottrell 0-1 2-3 2, McMillan 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS 21-43 11-18 60.
IOWA (9-2) — Cook 6-12 6-8 18, Garza 5-9 4-5 15, Moss 3-8 2-2 9, Wieskamp 3-6 3-3 10, Bohannon 1-4 1-2 4, Kriener 2-3 1-1 5, N.Baer 1-2 1-2 4, Dailey 1-3 2-4 4, McCaffery 1-1 7-10 9, Ash 0-1 0-0 0, Hobbs 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS 23-49 27-37 78.
Halftime–Iowa 48-29. 3-Point Goals–WCU 7-16 (Gibson 2-2, Gosselin 2-4, Halvorsen 2-6, Steger 1-2, Cottrell 0-1, McMillan 0-1), Iowa 5-18 (N.Baer 1-2, Wieskamp 1-3, Garza 1-3, Bohannon 1-3, Moss 1-4, Kriener 0-1, Dailey 0-2). Fouled Out–Dotson. Rebounds–WCU 27 (Dotson 8), Iowa 23 (Garza 6). Assists–WCU 11 (Steger, Halvorsen 3), Iowa 15 (McCaffery 5). Total Fouls–WCU 24, Iowa 13.