DES MOINES — Hy-Vee will endure. Food undoubtedly will remain essential on our planet for the unforeseeable future.
The memory of the Hy-Vee Classic, however, will fade from our ecosystem faster than a wait in an express checkout lane. The annual men’s basketball doubleheader at Wells Fargo Arena reached its expiration date Saturday, ending its seven-year run with a game that was the opposite of memorable.
No. 21 Iowa had a 12-3 lead at the first timeout and glided past Northern Iowa, 77-54, before an event-low 12,236 fans. It was the Hawkeyes’ most one-sided win over the Panthers since, well, their 69-46 triumph here two years ago when last they met.
This isn’t the same UNI team that won 54 games over the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. The Panthers are 4-6.
Nor is this the same Iowa club that was 4-6 through 10 games a year ago. The Hawkeyes are 8-2 on their way to 11-2 with the next three games at home against Western Carolina (Tuesday night), Savannah State and Bryant.
UNI came into this game with just one player averaging over 10 points per game. That was freshman guard AJ Green of Cedar Falls, who had been averaging 15.8. He had two points Saturday, missing all but one of his eight shots from the field. He even missed both of his free throws after making 25 of his first 27 as a collegian.
“Try to make his looks as tough as possible,” Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon said, explaining his defensive intentions. “I thought I did pretty good at that to start the game.
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“He’s a really good player,” Bohannon said. “How he’s able to handle the ball, how he’s able to create his own shot, he’ll be really special in upcoming years.”
“When you’re missing shots you’ve just got to forget about it,” Green said. “They did a pretty good job trying to deny me the ball. I’ve just got to keep shooting.”
The problem wasn’t the quality of the shots the Panthers got as much as the fact they didn’t make them. UNI missed 13 straight shots in an 8:23 stretch of the first half when its 13-7 deficit mushroomed into 25-9.
The Panthers finished at 36.4 percent from the floor and were a woeful 6-of-29 from 3-point distance. Iowa had no such problems, shooting 53.7 percent overall and 10-of-25 from 3-point range.
UNI could do little defensively against Iowa’s big men, Tyler Cook and Luka Garza. Each scored 17 points. Cook got his with just seven field-goal tries. He also had game-highs of 13 rebounds and five assists.
Over his last four games, he is averaging 19.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
“I think Cook is playing as well as about anybody in the country,” Panthers Coach Ben Jacobson said. “There can’t be but a handful of guys in the entire country that are doing all the things he’s doing right now for their basketball team.”
Cook topped the 1,000-point career scoring mark.
“It’s cool,” he said. “But the most important thing is we got the win. … We’re judged by wins and losses.”
“The great thing when you have a guy who’s your best player, does he think that way?” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “Is he a team guy, does he put winning first?
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“Double him and he feeds people. He loves playing that way and that just gets everybody else going. His teammates love playing with him, and we can sort of run the offense through him.”
As for Cook becoming Iowa’s 47th 1,000-point scorer, McCaffery said “I’m thrilled for him. He’s on to the next thousand.”
NOTES: The only sour note of the day for the Hawkeyes was junior forward Cordell Pemsl sitting out with what was described as leg discomfort. The question remains if Pemsl will shut it down for this season and have knee surgery, and apply for a medical redshirt waiver for this season since he has appeared in just two games.
Hawkeye senior Nicholas Baer finished with a career 4-0 record in the Hy-Vee Classic. He blocked a shot Saturday, his 10th in this event. He had six here as a freshman.