IOWA CITY, Iowa — Peter Jok shattered a 55-year-old free-throw record Tuesday night and shrugged off the feat like it was a modest accomplishment.
The Iowa senior shooting guard knocked down 22 free throws — in 23 attempts — in the Hawkeyes’ 96-90 overtime win against Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Jok broke NBA coaching legend and former Iowa star Don Nelson’s mark of 21, which was set in 1962, also against Indiana.
“It’s impressive, but I don’t really care about all that,” Jok said. “I just care about winning. I’m trying to do whatever I can to help the team finish strong.”
Add whatever superlative you want to Jok’s free-throw performance, but his points came when the Hawkeyes needed them the most. He finished with 35 points, his second-most this season. He scored 15 in the overtime period. was 11 of 12 from the line. His only miss came on a second attempt with Iowa ahead 78-77.
“I was surprised he missed the one, to be honest with you,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Usually, not only does he make them, he usually doesn’t hit anything but the net.”
“I usually stand at the line until I make it, but I thought it was good so I went back a little bit,” Jok said. “It was short. I was mad I missed that.”
Outside of that hiccup, Jok was flawless in the extra frame. After Indiana took an 81-80 lead, Jok drew a foul and put the Hawkeyes back up with a pair of free throws. Then on Indiana’s next possession, Jok swiped the ball from Indiana center Thomas Bryant, which led to two more free throws and an 84-81 lead.
“I read (Indiana guard James) Blackmon,” Jok said. “He likes to go to the middle. So I tried to act like I was away from Bryant. Right when he threw it, I tried to time it up, hoping I’d come up with the steal.”
Jok leads the Big Ten in scoring at 21.0 points per game, and he’s also the league’s top free-throw shooter in makes (140) and percentage (92.1). He’s on pace to shatter the school record for single-season free-throw percentage. Only Matt Gatens in 2009 shot better than 90 percent from the foul line in a season.
From the free-throw line, Jok is so good his teammates relax.
“Yeah, it’s actually a bad habit,” Iowa sophomore forward Nicholas Baer said. “(Jok is) about as money as it gets. I think it’s going in, everybody thinks it’s going in. Pete thinks it’s going in, which is the most important. He’s been automatic from the free-throw line. I’ve probably got to break out of that habit.”
Nelson connected on 21 of 25 free throws on Feb. 17, 1962 against the Hoosiers. Nelson, a two-time first-team all-Big Ten performer at Iowa, holds the NBA coaching record with 1,335 wins.
From the field, Jok connected on 6 of 12 shots but made just 1 of 6 from 3-point range. He added five rebounds, three steals and an assist without a turnover in 38 minutes. In the extra period, Jok wanted the ball.
“We were just running motion, and obviously Pete’s the best player, the best free-throw shooter, they were fouling quite a bit, and we wanted to get him the ball in his spots and in good situations, and we were able to do that,” Baer said. “He did a nice of driving and drawing fouls. Then being able to knock down free throws like he did. It was phenomenal.”
“I told the guys just focus on defense, and on offense, I wanted the ball in my hands because I feel like I had a mismatch pretty much the whole game,” Jok said. “But in that stretch, I was just trying to get to the free-throw line as much as I can.”
Jok’s 23 free-throw attempts tied for the third most in program history. Dave Gunther shot 26 free throws against West Virginia on Dec. 29, 1956. Jok’s 22 free throws tied for third-most in Big Ten history. Earlier this season against Memphis, Jok scored 40 points, the program’s single-game high since 1976. He has 1,417 career points, ranking 16th in Iowa history.
“His form is textbook,” McCaffery said. “He’s got great confidence in it. But when it comes off his hands so nicely, and he shoots it the same way every time. Everything you’ve ever heard a shooting coach talk about, his follow through, where he puts his hands, his elbow.
“I mean, it’s perfection.”