No. 3 Hawkeyes show off their shooting to fend off No. 14 North Carolina
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Jordan Bohannon scored 24 points, connecting on seven 3-pointers, to help Iowa win a nationally televised battle of ranked basketball teams Tuesday.
He was so excited about that performance that he declared: “I was trying to find some fire I guess to try to have a big game. I really didn’t think I shot the ball well. I just hit some pretty big shots. But I still think I had an off day shooting.”
Joe Wieskamp buried five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points for the Hawkeyes, an accomplishment that drew this reaction: “I thought I could have played better.”
You wouldn’t have known from the postgame comments, but No. 3 Iowa showed exactly how potent its offense was built to be in a 93-80 victory over No. 14 North Carolina at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
All-American center Luka Garza has never had to work harder to get 16 points than he did while surrounded and hounded by a rotating cast of Tar Heel big men. But the attention on him left a lethal trio of Hawkeye shooters spread around the 3-point arc, and they combined to make 17 of 30 shots from that distance to fend off any challenge from North Carolina (3-2).
Mixed in were contributions from five Iowa role players who did what was asked of them, whether it showed up in the box score or not.
“We have some of the best shooters in the country. Those guys can kill you, and they did (Tuesday),” Garza said after being held below 20 points for the first time in 20 games.
It didn’t matter. Garza, a senior who returned to Iowa for the express purpose of winning a national title, contributed a game-high 14 rebounds and four blocked shots. He knew scoring would be a chore, so he left that up to Bohannon, Wieskamp and CJ Fredrick (21 points).
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Tuesday’s game unfolded exactly as he had envisioned it. The Hawkeyes were victorious because of the way the roster has been constructed.
The Hawkeyes (4-0) won their first three games by lopsided scores because opposing teams had no answer for Garza, who exceeded 30 points in each of them. That’s one approach that has been proven to work.
Tuesday brought another.
McCaffery has three perimeter scorers who are smart and efficient. He trusted them not to take bad shots that might turn into easy transition opportunities for North Carolina. He wanted to force the Tar Heels to play defense with crisp ball movement, get a sensible shot and then be able to get back and set up at the other end of the floor.
Fredrick and Wieskamp each made 5 of 7 from the 3-point arc. Bohannon’s seven successes came on 16 shots, which may be why he was disappointed in himself, but he has always had a knack for landing the knockout blow. North Carolina led by a single point twice in the second half. On the latter occasion, it was Bohannon who buried a 3-pointer off of a Wieskamp assist to put Iowa ahead for good.
“Everything I lived for and worked for my entire life is just being able to play in these big-time games,” Bohannon said. “North Carolina is a team that I grew up watching and always wanted to play against.”
Iowa boxes out to keep North Carolina from getting easy baskets
North Carolina was averaging 18 offensive rebounds a game, so the Hawkeyes knew they would have their hands full even if they forced a missed shot. What good would that do if a Tar Heel simply grabbed the basketball and laid it in?
Iowa put on a clinic in boxing out in the first half. North Carolina had only two second-chance points despite missing 20 shots. The Hawkeyes built a 43-31 lead.
“It won us the game,” Garza said.
“They’re a team that thrives on getting those second-chance points, and they really beat teams down when they get on the glass.”
Garza and Wieskamp each had seven defensive rebounds. Garza said it was his way of contributing since his offensive production wasn’t at its normal level.
Wieskamp, at 6-foot-6, came into the game knowing that it was going to be a physical test.
“They’ve got a lot of big guys that kind of just throw you around and try to tip it to themselves and get easy putbacks,” Wieskamp said.
“I just tried my best at boxing out guys that were bigger than me.”
It was an accurate summation of how the Tar Heels succeed despite a horrid 27.1% mark from the 3-point line. And they did manage 12 second-chance points in the second half when they made their run at the Hawkeyes.
But Iowa, thanks to seven offensive rebounds from Garza, got 21 second-chance points. The Hawkeyes beat North Carolina at its own game.
Bench makes its mark: Toussaint and Murray provide a second-half spark
While Iowa was focused on limiting North Carolina’s second-chance points, it was notable that the Hawkeyes got no second-string points in the first half. Four starters provided all the scoring, and that was a trend that couldn’t last.
Midway through the second half, backup point guard Joe Toussaint and freshman forward Keegan Murray showed their value. Toussaint, a 6-footer, drove right at North Carolina’s 6-10 post player Armando Bacot, bouncing off his torso to sink a layup that came with an added bonus: Bacot’s fourth foul. That put Iowa ahead 67-66.
Toussaint was at it again moments later, making an alert backdoor cut, collecting a bounce pass from Bohannon and making another layup.
Murray followed that by rushing to the offensive glass to retrieve a missed shot by Garza, banking a shot in from a sharp angle while being fouled by Garrison Brooks (also his fourth). Murray made the free throw. Suddenly, the Hawkeyes were on a 14-0 run and back in control of the game.
“Great teams, you need guys like that who come in and provide big roles,” an appreciative Garza said.
Iowa’s bench players contributed nine rebounds and eight assists with only one turnover. They also scored 13 points, in a game Iowa won by … 13.
Garza is a superstar, no doubt. Bohannon, Fredrick and Wieskamp are elite shooters.
But this was a team win, and this team expects many more to follow this winter.
Iowa next hosts Iowa State at 8 p.m. Friday.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.