Iowa 88, Centenary 53
Common question from the student section last night: "[w]ho are these guys?"
You can be assured of two things when Iowa plays a no-name opponent: aggressive dunks from Doug Thomas, and Pierre Pierce scoring at will. Hawkeye fans were again treated to both as Thomas twice brought the crowd to their feet and Pierce scored 19 points in just 22 minutes in a win against the Centenary Gentlemen. See also: Upper Iowa, Laval University, and to a limited extent, Western Illinois (apparently their higher name recognition negates Pierce's scoring ability). The theory gets tested again tonight against UNC-Greensboro.
It wasn't a Globetrotter show from the get-go, as Centenary held close with early three-pointers and tied the score midway through first half. Iowa was just too fast and too strong the rest of the way, and outscored the Gents 50-27 in the second half.
- The Hawk's Nest (the 2-3 row section behind the south basket) was apparently infused with alcohol, finally, and they were not shy about their affection for reserve big man Doug Thomas. Chants of "Thunder Doug" during warmups were encouraged with highlight-reel (almost-)dunks. The chants were revived in the second half with Centenary shooting free throws at the south end and Thomas along the lane. Doug acknowledged his fan club with an awkward smile, and not to disappoint, threw down an alley oop on the very next possession. The crowd loved it. While there are still plenty of moments when Doug shows how raw his talent still is, I hope he can find some minutes in a big game, just for the sake of his ability to ignite a frenzy in the crowd.
- Erek Hansen only played 19 minutes, but was around long enough to make a couple plays we never saw from him last year. First, running the floor - Iowa rebounded Centenary's miss on the first possession of the game. Hansen raced ahead and caught a pass on the fast break (although he failed to make the shot with a man in his face). Second, passing ability - Hansen hit Jeff Horner with a sweet backdoor bounce pass from the top of the key for an easy layup. One thing he could work on - when Hansen gets the ball up top with a guy closely guarding him, he likes to hunch over and swing his elbows. I think he'd be better off if he took advantage of his height by standing a little taller and getting a good view of his passing options.
- Coach Alford was able to rest most of the team and use all of his bench. Horner played 31 minutes, but the rest of the starters played right around 20 minutes, and several bench players saw 15 to 20 minutes. Iowa is in a stretch where they play 4 games in 8 days, so it'll be nice to have some fresh legs for those big games against Northern Iowa and Iowa State next week.
- Pierce finally managed to take Hawkeye Hoops Player of the Game honors away from Jeff Horner. He's been close on a couple occasions, most notably the Texas game, but he clearly deserved it for this performance. He scooped up loose balls and picked several pockets, coming away with 5 steals to go with his 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. One play that stands out in my mind: Pierce grabbed a loose ball, and was basically off-balance and on his knees. He split two defenders with a low, down-court pass to set Thomas up for a monster fast-break dunk.
- Greg Brunner put together another solid but unspectacular game. He had 14 points and 6 rebounds on 6-7 shooting.
- Did anyone else notice Pierce's socks? Maybe he's worn them all season, but last night it looked like he was wearing those NBA logo socks you see worn by the pros. Can someone sitting courtside confirm this for me? If they are his footwear of choice - hit some free throws, Pierre, then we'll talk.
Larry Eustachy's return to Iowa started out rough, as Southern Miss was defeated by UNC-Greensboro 79-78. Iowa gets the Spartans tonight at 8:11 CST. They'll clearly be tougher than Centenary, and Ronnie Burrell looked like a decent threat in the post. Check back tonight or early tomorrow for thoughts on that game.