Jordan Bohannon leads Iowa basketball over Northwestern, Hawkeyes to face Illinois in Big Ten tournament
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The six-game losing streak is over. So is Jordan Bohannon's shooting slump.
And just in time for the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
Iowa got 25 points from Bohannon to build a big lead in its home finale before holding off Northwestern 77-70 on Sunday.
Luka Garza added 18 points, Tyler Cook 14 (along with 11 rebounds) and Isaiah Moss 12.
Bohannon missed his first two 3-pointers, then reeled off six straight, most from well beyond the arc, his smile growing wider with each success. It was a brilliant turnaround for the sophomore point guard, coming off his first scoreless outing of the season Wednesday at Minnesota.
Bohannon was 3 for his last 18 from 3-point range before he got on track in the first half.
"I was joking with my teammates that I was making more contested shots (Sunday) than I was making wide-open shots. So I was a little frustrated. I felt like I could have had a couple more 3s go in," said Bohannon, who finished 7 of 14 from the arc, a career high.
"I had a little sitdown with coach (Fran) McCaffery a couple of days ago. His statement was just get my swag back. That's what he told me right before the game again. I wasn't necessarily lacking confidence but just been frustrated with myself. I just kept working. It was nice to have one of these games going into the Big Ten Tournament and we know that we needed this performance to show what we were capable of doing."
The Hawkeyes (13-18, 4-14 Big Ten) made 9 of 19 3-pointers and led at halftime, 45-28. They also enjoyed a 9-0 advantage in fast-break points as the Wildcats (15-16, 6-12) struggled to get into a rhythm against Iowa’s man-to-man defense.
Bohannon added six rebounds, five assists and tied the late Chris Street's program record for consecutive made free throws at 34. He then intentionally missed a chance to own the record outright before making two more free throws to help seal the win.
Iowa finished 12th in the Big Ten standings and will face Illinois at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the opening round of the league tournament in New York. The winner earns a matchup with Michigan on Thursday.
McCaffery benched Bohannon at Minnesota, but said he never lost faith in his best shooter. Bohannon played all 40 minutes Sunday.
"I want him to shoot the ball," McCaffery said. "It's OK to miss. That to me is what makes up who he is."
Cook, who had a career-high six assists, said Bohannon's early success fueled the team.
"I'm happy for him that he caught fire like that," Cook said. "I'm sure you could see it on my face and everybody else's face that we were all acting like we were the ones on fire."
Northwestern coach Chris Collins said Bohannon's hot shooting was his biggest fear coming into the game, especially knowing that he was coming off a rare poor outing.
"You know that he's one of the premier shooters in the conference, especially when he can get his feet set. He loves that transition 3 where he can pull up off the dribble," Collins said. "He got going early. He got some looks. We played some zone, which probably wasn't a great decision the way he was shooting the ball.
"You know a guy like that, if he doesn't shoot well the game before, he's going to be ready to go."
McCaffery said it was vital for his team to head to New York off of a win. A loss would have consigned the Hawkeyes to the 14th seed in the 14-team league and left them with a 3-15 conference record that would have been the worst in school history.
"I think it's important that we play better. That we play together. We had to fight," McCaffery said after his team won for the first time all season when scoring fewer than 80 points. "It feels good to head to New York off a 'W,' but it doesn't get any easier. You remember the last time we played Illinois."
Iowa rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat the Illini 107-98 in overtime last month. It was the team's only road victory of the season.
Dom Uhl, Iowa’s lone scholarship senior, got his first start of the season and contributed two blocked shots and two rebounds in eight minutes.