IOWA CITY – The Iowa State men’s basketball team was back in action Monday night for the first time since March.
The Hawkeyes played Division II opponent Truman State in a show competition at Carver Hawk Arena. Fans in attendance got a glimpse of the new look team and what it could be.
Iowa State enters the 2022-23 season with a veteran team but with unresolved questions: What will happen at base? What to expect from Chris Murray as “go-to guy”? Is Iowa State improving in that position, which was the weak point of last year’s team?
Monday night could barely allow for sweeping ads for the season, but the team looked strong throughout the 118-72 win.
Murray leads all scorers with 24 points. Tony Perkins scored 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and three breaks. Conor McCaffrey scored 12 points in four three-pointers. Philip Rebraca added 14 points, six rebounds, and three blocks. Payton Sandfort scored 14 points.
Here are some points from Monday night’s win:
New starting lineup wrinkled with Tony Perkins net positive results
Point Guard is an interesting position this season with long-running debutant Jordan Bohannon gone. The fight seemed to be a race between junior Aaron Ulysses and freshman Dasunty Bowen, but Monday night offered a different but fruitful alternative: rookie Tony Perkins. His entry into the starting line-up last season at Shooting Guard helped lead the Shooting Guard team into the season finale. In post-game comments on Monday, Perkins mentioned that he has been working on point guard since June and expects to play more combo guards this season.
“Last year with (Bohannon) I played quite a bit with the ball in my hands,” Perkins said. “I was used to it in high school too, so it’s not new to me… It really makes no difference (between a shooting ranger and a base keeper). As long as I’m on the ground I will go do my best to be the best player on the ground and help my team.”
Ulysses was suspended from participating in Monday’s show after citing his disorderly behavior on October 2. This allowed coach Fran McCaffrey to start a new squad: Perkins, Payton Sandfort, Patrick McCaffrey, Murray and Riberaka. Combined with a +29 on-court average all together, perhaps most impressively, the group didn’t average a turnover until the 1:40 mark in the first half.
Fran McCaffrey noted after the game that the length of the squad, with four starters at 6-foot-9 and Perkins at 6-foot-4, allowed the group to run all ball screens. That versatility, combined with Perkins’ natural aggressiveness, led to a 29-8 sprint to finish the first half. For the game, Iowa forced 19 turns and turned it into 27 points.
Offensively, the five starters combined fire 66% (31 out of 47) of the field. Murray dominated throughout the game, running 10-0 by himself as he started the second half strong. From that position, Rebraca looked confident and relaxed, confirming what Fran McCaffery and the players had said through their summer and fall training. The 6-year-old found his shots at the post and did not hesitate to push the ball in the transition.
more:Can Philip Rebraca play a basketball game in Iowa? Plus what to see in the upcoming exhibition
It will be interesting to see where McCaffrey goes with the squad when Ulis returns (likely at next Monday’s season opener) but he made it clear that there are plenty of options.
“We have a lot of different ways we can go,” McCaffrey said. “Dasonte played every point guard today but he can play off the ball. Josh Dix can play with or without the ball or a junior striker. There are a lot of ways we can go with that.”
The number of three-point shooting options popped up on Monday
The Hawkeyes lost their top two three-point shooting options from last season: Bohannon and Keegan Murray. But on Monday they shot from distance with great efficiency. Six players (Murray, Perkins, Sandfort, Conor McCaffrey, Josh Dix and Carter Kingsbury) fired 14 of 25 from a three-point range and each made multiple attempts.
Kingsbury likely won’t see much playing time all season, but it’s encouraging to see three starters and two potential contributors off the bench pay off well in the first game. Hawkeye fans should be encouraged that the numbers are better. Patrick McCaffrey missed his two attempts, but is a capable shooter, Bowen is the scoring guard who missed his only attempt, and Murray had some “good mistakes” – open shots that weren’t connected.
Hawkeyes was fifth best in the Big Ten last season from a three-point group. If they can improve on that mark with a few pieces coming up, the conference could lead another year in registration.
“It’s a dramatic difference,” McCaffrey said. “If you are moving and moving and no one can shoot, then the defense will fill in the paint. When they play, we can drive, kick, cut back and so on, and as long as we’re not selfish, which we are, then we’ll have open triples. I don’t remember which three We took it where I said “that was a bad shot”.
more:Leistikow: How Iowa Basketball Player Chris Murray is different (and in some ways better than) Keegan’s twin brother
Freshmen Bowen, Deeks impress in debut
Watch all of Hawkeye’s action on Monday night, including the real additions of freshman Dasonte Bowen and Josh Dix. Bowen, the points guard, led the team with eight assists. Dix, in his first game after returning from a spring leg injury, contributed eight points in 12 minutes.
“I don’t think they played like the freshmen,” McCaffrey said. “(Dix’s) defense throughout the second half was amazing. He moves without the ball and plays like a veteran; he’s a really good player. Same with Dasunte, there will be times when I play the ball because he can score and cut. He had eight passes, and there weren’t Duran, and it was great to see him.”
If there is criticism of Bowen’s performance, there have been several times where he has been jammed while trying to get to the edge. There is a clear adjustment in college basketball fitness, and it is expected to improve rapidly. His 20-minute night suggests he will be a heavy contributor off the bench this season.
During his enlistment he was known for his scoring prowess. If he can match it with the ability to distribute, then the Hawkeyes will have a weapon in the second unit.
“I didn’t take that many shots today, but those are the ones I can do, so I’m going to keep taking them,” Bowen said. “As the season gets closer, I’m going to feel more comfortable there and those shots will start coming in. So I kind of keep doing what I’m doing and keep emphasizing what I bring to the team.”