Ulis Takes Advantage Of Starting Opportunity

By JOHN BOHNENKAMP

It’s taken a while, but Ahron Ulis finally got his first start at Iowa.

Ulis, pressed into the starting point guard position with Tony Perkins out with a leg injury, had seven points and four assists in the No. 25 Hawkeyes’ 100-64 home win over Omaha on Monday night.

“It was a big opportunity for me,” Ulis said. “I’ve been wanting to start my whole life. It’s a dream come true for most people growing up. I just went out there and took the opportunity.”

It’s a new role for Ulis, but one he might have to be in for a while. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said after Monday’s game he wasn’t sure how long Perkins will be out. The Hawkeyes play Friday and Saturday in the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla.

McCaffery wasn’t surprised how Ulis handled the start.

“Yeah, he’s ready for that,” McCaffery said. “He played like a veteran. I said, ‘Tony’s not going to go, just do what you do.’”

Ulis’ teammates weren’t surprised, either.

“I think he’s just letting the game come to him —  setting people up. knocking down shots, making easy plays,” forward Kris Murray said.

“We’re comfortable with AU. AU’s played with us a lot,” forward Patrick McCaffery said. “Ahron’s great. I love playing with Ahron.”

It’s been a waiting game for Ulis, who came off the bench in his first two seasons with the Hawkeyes, playing 52 games and averaging 2.7 points in a smaller role. That role has increased this season, and Ulis has been preparing for it.

“I’ve been working on my all-around game, trying to stay consistent, trying to be in the gym as much as possible,” he said. “Just doing what I need to do.”

Ulis showed his shooting ability, hitting two 3-pointers. He has just six in his career.

“It was good to see him raise up and hit a couple of threes,” Fran McCaffery said.

At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Ulis can offer a physical presence on defense.

“He was terrific,” Fran McCaffery said. “Defensively, we did some switching, so that put him on some big guys. He fights you in the post — he’s got the size to do that.”

Iowa won 15 of 18 games with Perkins in the starting lineup. Ulis stepped up to fill that role, and it’s something he’s been wanting.

“I’m just feeling more confident on the court,” he said.

Photo: Iowa’s Ahron Ulis goes to the basket in Monday’s game against Omaha. (Stephen Mally/hawkeyesports.com)

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