IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) Coach Fran McCaffery challenged Jarrod Uthoff this offseason to be more assertive as Iowa's new go-to guy.
Uthoff didn't take long to show what he can do.
The senior scored all of his career-high 21 points in the first half and the Hawkeyes beat Gardner Webb 76-59 on Friday night in the opener for both teams. Uthoff scored 8 of Iowa's first 9 points.
''I just had a mindset of being more aggressive,'' Uthoff said. ''I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.''
Adam Woodbury had 11 points and Peter Jok added 8 before leaving early in the second half with an injury for the Hawkeyes, who scored 21 points off 17 Bulldog turnovers.
Tyrell Nelson scored 12 points to lead Gardner Webb, which shot 19 percent in the second half. The Bulldogs ended the game on a 2-of-15 shooting slump.
The Hawkeyes, who are vying for a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance after an eight-year drought, are relying on Uthoff to step up and replace all-Big Ten forward and Aaron White.
Uthoff hit 6 of 9 field goals and all seven of his fouls shots in the first half.
The versatile forward can score in a variety of ways. Uthoff had a steal, layup and hit the ensuing free throw for a 3-point play in the opening minutes. Later, he hit a pair of conventional 3-pointers.
''As the half went on, he just took over,'' McCaffery said.
Uthoff played only seven minutes in the second half as Iowa built its lead. He only shot three times after halftime.
Iowa led 41-37 after a back-and-forth first half. The Hawkeyes opened the second half on an 8-0 run to create a cushion and led by double figures for much of the rest of the game.
The Hawkeyes have won 33 of their last 34 nonconference home games.
Mike Gesell had nine of Iowa's 15 assists, a career high.
Guard Isaiah Ivey had 9 points and nine rebounds for Gardner Webb.
Gardner Webb was whistled for 28 fouls and Iowa made 21 of 28 free throws. Two Bulldogs fouled out.
Iowa: This was Iowa coach Fran McCaffery's 600th game as a coach. . The Hawkeyes won the only previous meeting against Gardner Webb by rallying from 23 points down in 2012 to complete the largest comeback in school history.
Gardner Webb: Nelson was named to the preseason All-Big South Conference team. . Eight of the Bulldogs' first 10 games are on the road.
Peter Jok, a starting Iowa guard, left the game a few minutes into the second half after colliding with teammate Anthony Clemmons going for a loose ball in front of Iowa's bench. He didn't return.
Jok didn't put any weight on his right ankle as he was helped to the locker room.
Coach Fran McCaffery wouldn't elaborate on the extent of Jok's injury. He's questionable for Sunday's game against Coppin State.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
Freshman Ahmad Wagner stood out as the only Iowa player wearing a headband. The forward won't make any fashion changes after having six points and eight rebounds in only nine minutes off the bench.
''I didn't wear a headband in high school, but I thought I'd try it out in college,'' Wagner said. ''It's working pretty well for me.''
Iowa hosts Coppin State on Sunday.
Gardner Webb travels to No. 18 Vanderbilt on Monday.