No. 21 Iowa men's basketball team improves to 9-2 with a 78-60 victory over Western Carolina

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Iowa forward Tyler Cook

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa – If you’re a big fan of drama and suspense and love the kind of highly competitive sporting event where the outcome isn't decided until the closing seconds, then Carver-Hawkeye Arena was definitely not the place to be on Tuesday night.

There was no drama besides whether Cordell Pemsl would play, and that was answered about an hour before tip-off when the junior forward announced that he would have season-ending knee surgery.

And there definitely was no suspense as No. 21 Iowa whipped Western Carolina 78-60 to improve to 9-2 on the season.

The game was competitive for a while. The Catamounts even led once at 10-9 early in the first half, and kept it close for part of the first half.

But you knew it was only a matter of time before Iowa would assert its dominance and that started to happen about midway through the first half.

Iowa scored nine consecutive points during a 2-minute stretch near the midway point of the first half that expended the lead to 23-12.

The 9-0 scoring run turned into a 28-10 scoring run and suddenly Iowa was leading by 20 points.

Iowa’s lead was 19 points at halftime (48-29) so the biggest concern about the second half was whether Iowa would score 100 points for the second time this season.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery called it weird game and pointed out that Western Carolina shot a blistering 64.7 percent in the first half but still trailed by 19 points at halftime.

"I don't think that's ever happened before, maybe in the history of basketball," McCaffery said.

The game was more or less a foregone conclusion, and it started at 8:07 p.m. on a Tuesday, so it would’ve been easy to convince yourself to skip it as many fans apparently did judging from all of the empty seats.

Iowa has two more of these foregone conclusion games against Savannah State on Saturday and against Bryant on Dec. 29, both of which are at Carver-Hawkeye arena, before returning to Big Ten play on Jan. 3 at Purdue.

Barring a monumental upset, Iowa should finish undefeated in nonconference play for the first time since the 1986-87 season.

That team would go on to finish 30-5 and miss making the NCAA Final Four by just one game, but let’s not start making that comparison yet because the 1986-87 squad team didn’t start 0-2 in the Big Ten, as is the case with the current Iowa team.

Iowa did what it had to do on Tuesday, which was dominate an overmatched opponent.

This game was on the schedule for two reasons, the first being Iowa’s need to have a certain number of easy wins against nonconference opponents to help balance the schedule, and the second being Western Carolina’s need to make some money for being a sacrificial lamb.

The loudest cheer of the night came during a timeout in the second half when a fan made a bank shot from midcourt as part of a promotion.

Iowa was leading 63-38 at the time, so the shot probably helped to bring some fans out of their boredom-induced coma.

Junior forward Tyler Cook also received a loud ovation before the game when he was recognized for recently becoming the latest Hawkeye to score 1,000 career points. The St. Louis native added 18 more points to his total on Tuesday.

The only problem with Tuesday's game besides the late start and the lack of competition was that junior forward Ryan Kriener limped off the court in the second half and didn't return.

The good news is that Kriener met with reporters after the game and said the injury wasn't serious.

Walk-on forward Riley Till also missed Tuesday's game after injuring his left ankle in practice. His status is day-to-day according to Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.

Iowa also became stagnant on offense late in the game and that allowed the Catamounts to make the final score closer than it probably should have been.