IOWA CITY – Jake Kelly’s multi-faceted performance at point guard Sunday may re-open Iowa’s discussion at the position for both the short and the long term.
Kelly, a sophomore from Carmel, Ind., earned him the Big Ten Player of the Week Award on Monday. He is the first Iowa player to win the award since Cyrus Tate won it almost a year ago.
Kelly scored 23 points, dished nine assists and grabbed eight rebounds – career highs in all categories – to lead Iowa to a 70-60 overtime win against Michigan. Kelly, who stands 6-foot-6, usually plays an off guard for Iowa (14-13, 4-10 Big Ten) but slid over to the point. Sophomore point guard Jeff Peterson has missed Iowa’s last two games with a pulled right hamstring. Junior guard Jermain Davis, who had played the point in Peterson’s absence, is out indefinitely with a bruised left knee.
Following Sunday’s game, Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter was asked by a reporter if he expected Kelly’s performance. Lickliter cut the question short. “Are you asking why I didn’t do this earlier?” Lickliter said with a laugh. “I don’t blame you. In the way that we play, he was handling the ball a lot anyway.”
On Monday, Lickliter was asked if moving Kelly to the point could become permanent.
“Right now, it’s in Jeff’s absence obviously,” Lickliter said. “But we’re always open to what will help team progress.
“Jake obviously has done a very good job in being able to fill it. We’ve gone through a few guys, and as I said (Sunday) our perimeters usually handle quite a bit. Even though we relied on Jeff to initiate the offense, our perimeters handle it. I think there’s a certain comfort level for Jake.”
Kelly said after Sunday’s game that he enjoys playing point guard because he can dictate the game’s tempo. He seemed more efficient as the game progressed. Iowa slimmed down most of its offense and ran primarily motion sets. Kelly had just two turnovers – both in the first half – and played all 45 minutes. He scored nine points in overtime, including seven points on three of Iowa’s first four overtime possessions.
“We ran some sets but a lot of it was high ball screens and things like that,” Kelly said. “(We were) trying to get help on the roll down low with Matt (Gatens) rolling up, and that allowed us to drive lanes and kick out.”
Kelly got everyone involved, from the post to the perimeter. He assisted four of post Jarryd Cole’s five inside baskets. Kelly’s other five assists netted 3-point baskets for Iowa. He also defended against Michigan’s Manny Harris, the Big Ten’s second-leading scorer, and held him to nine points.
“Jake’s concern is helping his team win,” Lickliter said. “He showed that (Sunday).”
Kelly likely will run the point again this week, this time at league leader Michigan State. Both Peterson and Davis are day-to-day, Lickliter said, but Davis could miss more time with his injury. Along with the hamstring pull, Peterson has played with a broken left wrist, which he suffered at Ohio State on Dec. 31. Peterson’s wrist will require surgery following the season.
“I really think Jeff, I believe, he’s getting close,” Lickliter said. “I do think (the hamstring pull is) an injury that could linger and nag for a long time.
“Jeff as all of our guys I’m sure, but Jeff I’ve seen, he can play with the some pain. What we’re trying to do, we don’t want to do any damage. So once (Iowa trainer) John (Streif) feel like he’s past that point, I’m sure Jeff will be available. I don’t know how much, but it’s just one of the things that nags. He can have a setback. We’re just going to have to be patient with him.”
Peterson had played at least 33 minutes in every Big Ten game before the hamstring injury. He has 106 assists to 79 turnovers and averages 10.6 points a game. Kelly averages 10.3 points, has 76 assists and 66 turnovers this year.