IOWA CITY – One good pass led to another Friday and that led the Iowa basketball team to victory.
The Hawkeyes matched a school record by recording assists on 34 of the 36 baskets they collected in a 98-75 win over Northern Illinois in front of a crowd of 14,665 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“When we’re able to get things moving like that, good things are going to happen for us," point guard Jordan Bohannon said. “We’ve spent a lot of time the last few days talking about getting good ball movement, working it around and how that can open things up for us."
Tyler Cook discovered that quickly.
He scored nine of his 17 points in the first three minutes of the game, helping the Hawkeyes to a 13-0 lead which went unchallenged.
“In practice, I’ve seen that before but it carried over to this game," Cook said. “To move the ball around the way we did and get everyone involved, that’s huge for us. It put us in a position to make a lot of plays."
Bohannon found Cook inside and out during Iowa’s early surge, allowing the sophomore to knock down three jumpers in the 15-to-18 foot range during a first half which saw the Hawkeyes scorch the nets.
“If the open jumper is there, I’m going to take it," Cook said. “It’s something I’m working on all the time. They didn’t double me early and that allowed me to get off to a quick start."
Iowa shot the ball on its way to a 56-32 halftime lead at a 66.7-percent clip, hitting 20-of-30 shots while recording 18 assists.
The Hawkeyes didn’t stop there, recording an assist on each of its 16 baskets in the second half.
Eleven Iowa players had assists in the game, with Bohannon leading the way with seven as part of a collaborative effort that equaled the existing record set during a 1984 game against George Mason.
“We wanted to run and move the ball, that’s when you have numbers like the 34 assists on 36 baskets," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “To have an entire half when you have an assist on every basket, that’s pretty amazing. I’m proud of the guys continuing unselfishness."
Iowa’s lead by grew as large as 80-48 with 11 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the game after the Huskies (7-6) started doubling up on Cook and discovered that Luka Garza has plenty of range as well.
The freshman played just 16 minutes but connected on all eight shots he attempted on his way to a career-high 25 points, including connections on all three shots he attempted from three-point range.
“I’m just trying to play well when I get the chance, no matter how many minutes I’m out there," Garza said. “I try to make the most of them."
He accomplished that, leading Iowa with seven rebounds and five blocks and dishing out one assist himself.
“His energy level was phenomenal," McCaffery said. “If you watch him run and attack the glass at both ends, every possession. He was moving without the ball very well, posting hard and I feel like he was infectious to the rest of the team. To have 25 points in 16 minutes, you don’t see that very often."
McCaffery wouldn’t mind seeing more of what he saw Friday as the Hawkeyes (9-6) prepare to move back into Big Ten play next week, hosting Michigan and Ohio State.
Bohannon said it was the type of offensive flow needed by Iowa, which shot 58.1-percent for the game.
“This is what we’re capable of, working together, working for good shots and making good passes. It’s definitely something to build off of," Bohannon said after the Hawkeyes earned their fifth straight win.