Any Make Will Do For Nunge

Jack Nunge has scored just two points in two games to start the season. (Steven Branscombe/USA Today Sports)
John Bohnenkamp

Jack Nunge has been told by his coach to keep shooting.

Any shot will do for Iowa's 6-11 sophomore forward.

"I haven’t made a field goal all year, so it would definitely help," Nunge said. "If I can get an easy bucket — a layup, a dunk, something like that, offensive rebound or putback..."

Nunge, who sat out last season to get stronger, drew offseason raves from coach Fran McCaffery and the rest of the Hawkeyes for the way he had been playing in workouts and in practice.

But Nunge, who has started the first two games of the season, is 0-of-5 from the field, 0-of-2 in 3-pointers. The only points he has scored have come from two free throws.

He's better than that, McCaffery said on Wednesday. And so that's why McCaffery wants Nunge to keep shooting.

"Just change your mindset a little bit and be a little more aggressive that way," McCaffery said. "That might help you. But you can't miss a three and then not shoot again. You have to shoot five more. He's a really good 3-point shooter. Some guys have that innate characteristic in them. He's a guy that he's an efficient team guy, and if he's missing a three, he's not going to keep firing. He's just got to do (that) and I want him to do that and I keep encouraging him to do that."

The Nunge from practice is the Nunge that McCaffery wants to see on the court.

"Well, his shooting percentages from the field and from the three were really good, as were his rebounding numbers, as were his assist/turnover numbers," McCaffery said. "I mean, those are the stat lines you look in terms of gauging productivity.

"It's one thing to say, OK, he made a ton of threes. Well, how many did he take and what was his percentage? Well, his percentage was well into 40 percent, well over 50 from the field. He's getting to the offensive glass. You know, he's not a big mistake guy in general, so if you're scoring big, you want to be able to have more assists than turnovers, and he does. Like I said, it's a body of work thing. It's not like he had a couple good days. That's good, but did you have couple good weeks, which he did."

Nunge's teammates are telling him the same thing.

"I’ve been telling him that the way you’ve been practicing, the way he’s been playing all spring, summer and fall, he’s got to play with that type of confidence," center Luka Garza said. "He hasn’t been these last two games. I’ve just been pushing him, just trying to get him to go out there and be himself, because when he does, if you watch practice, he’s just killing. I just really want him to be able to go out there and do it at game time."

Nunge played just 10 minutes in Monday's 93-78 loss to DePaul. He started the game, but his struggles, plus the play of forward Ryan Kriener, limited his playing time.

"You know, he didn't play well at the start of the game, he didn't play well at the start of the second half, so I put Kriener in, he plays well," McCaffery said. "(Forward) Cordell (Pemsl), I thought, played well at the end. We went small for a minute.

"So (Nunge) only played for ten minutes. I don't think we want to kill the kid for 10 minutes of activity."

"I’ve definitely told him, we’ve all been there," Garza said. "I’ve been there many times. You can’t really get a rhythm going, and then you get subbed out and somebody else is playing well and you don’t really get another opportunity to get back out there and establish yourself."

Nunge appreciates the advice.

"It’s something that’s very important for me," Nunge said. "Coach always tells me to have amnesia — whatever play, the next play I’m going to make it a better one. He’s really in my ear a lot about that — shooting because I’m a great shooter.

"He’s just telling me that the way I play in practice, he wants me to play like that in a game. I love Coach. He’s always been trying to encourage me, trying to get me to be the best version of myself. I need to be that way going forward."