Jordan Bohannon helps Iowa bury Nebraska early, as Patrick McCaffery springs to life late
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Nebraska should have realized Thursday’s outcome had been decided after just five minutes and three Jordan Bohannon 3-pointers.
Iowa’s point guard was feeling it, making Carver-Hawkeye Arena his personal playground one more time. The Cornhuskers could have headed back west at halftime because the basketball game was heading south.
“We played him with the ball. We played him off the ball,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Bohannon. “And once he gets going, we were looking for him. We found him.”
Bohannon found the bottom of the net eight times, good for a season-high 26 points. He tied his career-high with the octet of 3-pointers. Then he watched for the final 11 minutes as his teammates put the finishing touches on a 102-64 victory.
It was the most points the Hawkeyes had scored in a Big Ten Conference game, and their largest margin of victory against a league opponent, since pummeling Northwestern 116-77 in 1995.
Bohannon was born two years later.
Bohannon knew he needed to aggressively look for his shot against the Cornhuskers (7-18, 3-15 Big Ten) because of the way they smothered Iowa center Luka Garza a year ago. Bohannon watched that game on TV, resting up after hip surgery. The Hawkeyes tossed up 33 3-pointers, connected on only four, and lost on the road.
“I knew that was going to be the game plan this year again,” Bohannon said of Nebraska’s strategy. “Knowing that I was going to get some open looks (Thursday) and my teammates were going to find me. If I’m able to knock them down, it’s going to be huge for our success.”
Bohannon has made 352 3-pointers in his five-year career, the most ever by a Hawkeye. At his best, he’s audacious enough to believe that “range” is just a state of mind and a shot clock is merely a suggestion.
He was at his best Thursday. That explained a 26-second sequence early in the game in which Bohannon came out of a timeout firing a 3-pointer that rippled through the net, then stole the ball and dribbled upcourt with no advantage in numbers, just a supreme confidence that Nebraska couldn’t match. The Cornhuskers backpedaled toward their basket, only to watch Bohannon pull up from 28 feet and 26 seconds on the shot clock to drive home his point: Iowa wouldn't be stopped this time.
That made the score 17-5 in favor of the Hawkeyes. The lead was never smaller than nine in the final 35 minutes.
It was the sixth victory in seven games for No. 8 Iowa (19-7, 13-6).
Bohannon, despite his outpouring of offense, said the win was a credit to the Hawkeye defense. Iowa forced 20 turnovers, getting 25 points out of that equation. Nebraska made only 22 of 65 shots (33.8%). The Cornhuskers turned all of those misses into a mere two second-chance points.
They had zero fast-break points, while Iowa put up 19.
“That's what makes our break so special, my ability to change sides of the floor and look for my shot. It opens up the floor to all our other shooters. And the defenders have to come out far on me,” Bohannon said.
“That’s something I’ve always tried to utilize as a point guard is to use my shot as an advantage to load up other guys. If I need to shoot the ball in certain games to help our team win games, that’s fine.”
Iowa made 16 of 43 3-pointers, for its second-highest total of the season (there were 17 successful 3s in a win over North Carolina).
The Hawkeyes were so dominant that all-American center Luka Garza wasn’t needed in the second half. He had 14 points at intermission, and that’s where his total remained. No one played more than Bohannon’s 25 minutes.
Thirteen Hawkeyes got into the game, and 12 of them got into the scoring column. The only one who didn’t was backup shooting guard Tony Perkins; the freshman had three assists instead.
A restful Big Ten game this late in the season? That’s just what Iowa needed, with only an 11:30 a.m. Sunday home date against Wisconsin remaining before the tournaments that matter.
Patrick McCaffery delivers a timely big game, making himself ill in the process
Patrick McCaffery is a freshman pressed into a bigger role after the season-ending knee injury suffered by Jack Nunge. So perhaps it was a good sign for Iowa that he had the best game of his young career Thursday.
It came with his own Jordan Bohannon moment late in the game. McCaffery, a 6-foot-8 forward, made one 3-pointer, called for the ball on the next possession and sank another. He buried a third a minute later, bouncing and clapping and showing some confidence.
His next shot rimmed out, and McCaffery made what may have been his most impressive play, grabbing the deflected rebound and dribbling into the lane for a floating layup, switching the ball to his left hand at the rim to convert.
That was 15 second-half points, and a career-high 19 for the game, for McCaffery. He also had a personal-best six rebounds, something he said he would need to provide more of in the absence of the 6-11 Nunge.
“I was talking to Wiesy (Joe Wieskamp) after the game and he was just like: ‘It feels good, doesn’t it?’” McCaffery said of Iowa’s junior wing player. “Now I know how it feels to be him every game. It was kind of like everything I put up out there I thought was going to go in. It’s just kind of the mentality I have to have with every shot, whether I’m feeling good or not.”
After his flurry, McCaffery wasn’t feeling so good. The referees called a timeout with 3:03 remaining and McCaffery immediately walked to a garbage can near the tunnel leading to Iowa’s locker room and vomited into it. His face was red. His teammates gave him some good-natured kidding when he returned to the huddle.
This has happened occasionally to McCaffery ever since his days at Iowa City West High School, he said. Back then, he would take a few seconds to throw up and then go right back into the game. That was not necessary Thursday.
“It kind of overwhelmed me for a second,” he said. “It happens in practice. It’s something that we’re working around and trying to figure it out.”
Of course, if that’s the consequence of a 19-point, six-rebound effort for McCaffery, everyone on the Hawkeye side will live with it. He could be a vital role player for Iowa in March.
CJ Fredrick 'a little bit sore' after latest injury, which Hawkeyes can ill afford
There was only one problem for Iowa on Thursday, but it could be a big one. Starting shooting guard CJ Fredrick appeared to injure his right ankle in the first half and did not return to the game.
The Hawkeyes didn’t need Fredrick against Nebraska. But they will in the bigger battles to come. He’s already missed four games this season while dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
“A little bit sore. So we’ll see how he is (Friday),” was the report from Fran McCaffery afterward.
Fredrick fell heavily under his own basket while committing a foul with 5:35 left before intermission. He came up limping slightly and avoided eye contact when Fran McCaffery walked onto the court to check on him. That was enough to convince the coach to put in Perkins, while Fredrick went to the trainer’s room. He returned in uniform, without any sign of a brace on the ankle, but made no motion to return to the court.
McCaffery said he never considered putting Fredrick back in.
“He probably would have said he wanted to go. I‘m not sure he was ready to go,” McCaffery said. “He’s a pretty tough kid. He would have pushed through, but he was a little sore.”
Fredrick has made 34 3-pointers for Iowa this season, with a mere five turnovers. He’s as reliable a player as you’ll find in the league. The caution with his injury was understandable. But the timing could be problematic indeed if it’s anything serious.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.