Jordan Bohannon hopes to lead a 3-point barrage as Iowa faces Cincinnati
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jordan Bohannon was a primary topic in both locker rooms Thursday.
Cincinnati guard Jarron Cumberland was focused on stopping him.
“I haven’t seen a shooter like him,” Cumberland said. “He can shoot off the dribble. He’s a good catch-and-shoot guy. … If they get hot on the outside, it’s going to be a long night for us.”
Those in the Iowa locker room agreed that Bohannon is a great shooter. Maishe Dailey even said the best in the nation. That’s why the Hawkeyes were intent on getting the junior point guard out of a recent shooting slump.
Bohannon will be a story line when the 10th-seeded Hawkeyes (22-11) play their first NCAA Tournament game in three Marches, at 11:15 a.m. Friday against 7-seed Cincinnati (28-6) at Nationwide Arena. The game will be televised on CBS.
Bohannon is a career 41.1 percent 3-point shooter. He has made 260, two short of Jeff Horner’s program record.
But Bohannon has also gone through two long stretches this season when his shot wasn’t falling. He’s at a career-low 38.5 percent accuracy as a result.
Early in the season, the Linn-Mar graduate endured a 10-for-37 drought over seven games. He admitted then that his confidence was starting to waver for the first time. Then he made 21 of his next 45 and the brash Bohannon of old reappeared.
In the past six games, however, Bohannon has made just 11 of 39 3-pointers. He attempted only two in last Friday’s 74-53 loss to Michigan and wound up with his second scoreless outing of the year.
“I’m going to try to be me,” Bohannon said on the eve of his first NCAA Tournament game.
“My confidence has always been high, and whenever I miss a shot I know the most important shot is the next shot. I’m going to keep having that mentality. And I’m shooting as many shots as I can (Friday).”
This is not what Cincinnati wants to hear. The Bearcats, winners of the American Athletic Conference Tournament, allow opponents to make 35.1 percent of their 3-pointers. It’s the most obvious weakness of a defense allowing only 62.2 points per game.
But it’s exactly what Bohannon’s teammates expect. Bohannon has attempted 10 or more 3-pointers in three games this season. He’s almost never gun-shy.
“Any time you have the best shooter in the country, you’ve got to get him going no matter what,” Dailey said.
“Every time he shoots the ball, I think it’s going in. No matter where he shoots it from.”
Bohannon isn’t alone among Hawkeye long-range shooters who have been off-target recently. Shooting guard Isaiah Moss made a career-high six 3-pointers in a Jan. 27 loss at Minnesota. He’s gone 7-for-28 since.
Opponents are more aggressive about closing out on him, Moss explained. He doesn’t want to force shots.
“If Jordan and I get going together, it’s over,” Moss said. “I think ball movement is the key. Loosen up the defense. Get some drive-and-kicks.”
Joe Wieskamp is the third leg of Iowa’s 3-point triangle. He is 5-for-18 from long range in his past five games. The freshman forward knows that Bohannon can get the ship sailing from the arc. Then everyone can jump aboard.
Wieskamp said the goal Friday is to play with a clear mind. Shooters can’t stop to think, especially on the biggest stage they’ve ever seen.
“A lot of guys get tensed up if they think about that. It they make a mistake, they’re going to let it drag on in their mind,” Wieskamp said.
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin is most concerned about Iowa’s 3-point shooters getting loose in transition. Once the Bearcats set up their halfcourt defense, it is difficult to unsettle.
“Defense wins games,” said Cumberland, who is Cincinnati’s leading scorer at 18.8 points per game and is determined to advance beyond the second round of this tournament after falling there in each of his first two seasons.
Transition defense comes down to “finding the closest guy to you, really, not letting him get open shots, second-chance shots,” Cumberland explained.
The closest guy could be Bohannon, Moss or Wieskamp. But, of that group, Bohannon is the one most likely to let a shot fly even if he’s nowhere close to the basket. That’s sometimes how he gets a hot streak started.
He’s aware that Cincinnati’s 3-point defense isn’t always up to par.
“Even of it was top in the country, it’s not going to matter to me. I’m still going to feel like I want to make 10 3s in the game. That’s my focus going into any game,” Bohannon said, before being told what Dailey had called him.
Bohannon just smiled.
“I have that confidence in myself, and I know my teammates have that confidence in me as well.”
Now the question is: Will Bohannon or Cumberland be smiling Friday afternoon?