Commentary: Young Hawkeyes bring swagger to the court
Adam Woodbury wagged his tongue as he ran down the floor. He’d just hit a difficult hook shot over his right shoulder from the right block to make the score 41-36 in the second half against Iowa State, and he wasn’t afraid to show his emotion.
Later in the half, Anthony Clemmons hit a pair of clutch jumpers to keep the Cyclones at bay and made it look like he was in practice.
This freshman class, which came to Iowa as a heralded group, has given the program a swagger. It’s no coincidence the team has jelled since Clemmons entered the starting lineup and Woodbury found his offensive touch.
Over the past two games, the duo has combined for 36 points, and Clemmons has 16 assists to just one turnover. He completely outplayed the Cyclones’ Korie Lucious, a Final Four veteran from his time at Michigan State, posting 14 points and 8 assists in an 80-71 victory. Sophomore Aaron White said he was impressed with what he’s seen from his new point guard.
“[He’s been] very impressive, especially for a freshman,” White said. “Really making plays for others, but even [on Dec. 7] he made some huge shots.”
Woodbury said the group just focuses on what they can do for the team.
“We all bring different things to the table,” Woodbury said. “And a couple of us have this attitude that we’re not going to let up. We don’t give a shit about what everybody thinks about us.”
That’s the kind of attitude that has been missing for several years — really since the Hawkeyes lost on a buzzer-beater against Northwestern State in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. It was back, along with raucous fans, in full force against the Cyclones. Iowa will need it in a loaded Big Ten, which has six teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
But if anyone has concerns about these youngsters’ maturity in big games, head coach Fran McCaffery gave an endorsement without saying a word on Dec. 6. Before the biggest game of the year thus far, he sent three freshmen to face the media.
When the pressure of a big game looms, it seems logical to have upperclassmen serve as the face of the program, no? But Woodbury, Clemmons, and Mike Gesell handled that pressure just as coolly as they operate on the court.
Clemmons said he fully appreciated the gravity of last week’s rivalry game, but it didn’t affect him.
“This was a must-win game, no doubt about it,” he said after the game. “And I told the players that.”
McCaffery didn’t hold back his praise of the Lansing, Mich., native.
“Clemmons was spectacular,” McCaffery said. “He has got an amazing ability to remain under control, to think the game, know what we want. [That’s] very rare for a player that young.”
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