IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa’s biggest concern didn’t come from Delaware State. It was in the fear of the unknown when guard Peter Jok laid on the floor, holding his left hip in the first half on Thursday.
“Your leader going down the game before Big Ten play starts,” guard Maishe Dailey said. “Just something scary to see.”
It turned out to be nothing more than that — just a scare. Jok would return and lead Iowa with 17 points. The Hawkeyes easily disposed of the Hornets 89-57, but the win was a little more stressful than it needed to be with the injury concern.
The silence in Carver-Hawkeye Arena was deafening when Jok went down in front of the Iowa bench with 6 minutes, 23 seconds left in the opening half. The team’s leading scorer, Jok entered the night averaging 23.1 points. He is Iowa’s most valuable player, the lone senior starter on a young team. No one Hawkeye can light up the scoreboard and continue to score while commanding as much attention from an opponent as Jok.
This is the one player Iowa can’t afford to lose. His shooting stroke — Jok started the day hitting 41.5 percent of his 3-point shots — gives Iowa the sense it has a shot in almost any situation. It’s a lot like how a knockout artist believes he has a chance in every boxing match they enter regardless of what the oddsmakers say.
This is the one game on the schedule in which all Iowa wanted to do was walk away healthy. Delaware State won’t be confused with an NIT team, let alone an NCAA Tournament team. The Hornets are a 3-win squad with only one coming against a Division-I opponent. Offense isn’t their strong suit. Neither is defending.
That’s why seeing Jok down was the last thing Iowa needed to go through.
“We didn’t know what happened to him,” forward Ahmad Wagner said. “We kind of just saw him on the ground. We were a little worried.”
Jok limping off the court didn’t help things, but it didn’t worry point guard Jordan Bohannon. Of course, he may have been the only one in the arena to feel that way.
“He’s a tough kid,” Bohannon said after the game.
Jok proved Bohannon right. He returned to the bench before the end of the first half. Coach Fran McCaffery could have sat Jok; there was no need to risk Jok re-injuring his hip. But the coach thought it was best for Jok to get back out on the court.
Any possible concern about the injury vanished within the first 2 minutes of the second half. All Jok did was drain a 3-pointer, hit a layup, steal a pass and grab a rebound. In other words, he was back to looking like a healthy Jok.
“He was pretty sore,” McCaffery said. “We thought start him in the second half to get him loosened up. He got a quick 7 points) and that was it.”
It turned out Bohannon was right. There was no need to panic.