THE MONDAY TIPOFF: Perkins’ Revival Comes At Right Time For Hawkeyes


Tony Perkins got back to being himself, and Iowa was better for it.

Perkins was the spark behind the Hawkeyes’ late-season run last season when he moved into the starting lineup, as they put together a stretch that included the Big Ten Tournament championship.

But Perkins was struggling when the Hawkeyes started on this current run to get themselves out of the holiday funk they had fallen into at the end of December and into the start of the new year.

Perkins had made just 6-of-28 shots in Iowa’s wins over Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan.

The Hawkeyes’ 81-67 win over Maryland was Perkins’ revival.

Perkins finished with a career-high 22 points, making 10-of-13 shots, and Iowa was better for it.

“It’s huge, because he’s so key,” guard Connor McCaffery said. “He brings energy, he brings toughness, he brings a lot to that spot. It’s just another dimension the other teams have to worry about guarding.”

Perkins called his struggles “a pain,” but didn’t want to get into any more colorful vocabulary.

“I can’t say the word,” the junior guard said, smiling, “but it was a pain.”

Slumps are part of a basketball player’s life, and Perkins understands that. Perkins appreciated the support he got — “Coaches were telling me, ‘You’re good. Just keep being aggressive,’” he said — but to get out of whatever was ailing him was something he felt he had to do on his own.

“As a player, you’ve got to live through that,” Perkins said. “You’ve got to brush it off your shoulder and just come back every day, regardless of what you’re going through, to be the best person you can be on the court and off the court.”

“It was not really anything, it was just overthinking too much. I was just in my own head, kind of. So that was really it. Nothing else.”

Perkins was missing those short pull-up jumpers that had made him so dangerous. And when those started falling early in Sunday’s game, he knew he was back.

“My energy started coming, so I knew what type of game I was going to have,” Perkins said.

“He missed a lot of those like pull-up mid-range 10-to-15-footers,” McCaffery said. “He missed a lot in that stretch and normally that’s a great shot for him. He really makes a high clip in practice and in prior games and he made those today, which is huge because he’s so good at that shot.”

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery knows what Perkins’ offensive ability can do for the rest of the Hawkeyes.

“When Tony’s going, whether it’s in transition or whether it’s with his pull-up game, it’s going to impact everybody else,” he said. “It collapses the defense, and we have guys out there who can hit threes. So it just affects everything with penetration and collapsing the defense.”

All of Perkins’ shots were inside the 3-point arc.

“I’ve always been a fan of his — he’s a heck of a player,” Maryland coach Kevin Willard said. “He doesn’t do … like, he doesn’t take a (3-pointer), and gets 22 points. He just knows who he is and knows his game. He sticks to it, doesn’t try to do anything he doesn’t need to do. And I think when you have a guy like that, it just helps everyone else on the offensive end.”

“I mean, I know he struggled,” Willard added. “But I’m a huge fan of the way he plays. I think he’s kind of like their glue guy. He doesn’t have to score. But I thought, you know, coming off the last two games, he hadn’t been great. I just think, watching them, he’s been their glue guy.”

Perkins also took out a little frustration in the second half, with a roaring dunk that started the Hawkeyes on an 8-0 run that put them up 55-44 with 12 ½ minutes to play after Maryland had gotten off to a strong start in the second half.

Perkins had been chided by teammates at halftime for not getting a dunk or two or three in the first half.

“‘You could have had three dunks. You could have dunked the ball. Dunk the ball,’” Perkins said, repeating what they were saying with a laugh added. “So when I got it, I was like, ‘Forget it, I’m going to dunk it so they’ll shut up.”

It was the final sign that Perkins was, indeed, back.

“​​I don’t think it was a big deal — guys go through a couple of games, two or three-game lulls,” Connor McCaffery said. “That’s just kind of the way it is. We’ve all been there. I’ve been there. It happens and it’s OK to try to find a groove again and that’s what he did.”

“Hopefully,” Perkins said, “I can continue to be who I was today.”

Photo: Iowa guard Tony Perkins races to the basket for a second-half dunk in Sunday’s win over Maryland. (Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)

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