Iowa's Bohannon hopes to back up one great shooting game with another at Northwestern

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

EVANSTON, Ill. — Jordan Bohannon knew a game like Sunday’s was on the horizon.

Iowa’s junior point guard had been in a rare shooting slump and — even rarer — he was hesitating to launch his jumper as a result.

But he’d been practicing tirelessly. He was even in the gym shooting until midnight on New Year’s Eve, an annual tradition.

The result was a season-high 25 points, on 5-for-8 3-point shooting and a perfect 10-for-10 from the free-throw line, in a 93-84 home victory against Nebraska.

“I’m just a shooter. You’re open, you’re going to shoot it,” Bohannon said afterward when asked about a deep 3 he pulled up and hit during a second-half transition opportunity. “I probably passed up a little more shots than I probably should have, especially against Purdue (an 86-70 loss on Thursday).

“This team runs a little better when I’m a little more aggressive finding people, and my shot opens up a lot in the offense. And I need to start realizing that. And still not being selfish about it, but just knowing that it’s going to help the team out.”

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon (3) shoots a 3-point basket while being defended by Nebraska guard Thomas Allen (12) during a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Iowa fans have seen this arc before from Bohannon. One great performance tends to multiply. In his first two starts as a freshman, he followed up a 23-point outing against Notre Dame with 20 more against Omaha. That season ended with Bohannon scoring 24, 19 and 25 points to average 10.9.

Last year, Bohannon scored 29 points against Maryland and backed it up with 23 the next time out, at Illinois. He had back-to-back 25-point outputs against Northwestern and Illinois again late that season.

Sunday was the first time Bohannon had been a one-man wrecking crew this season. It’s unlikely to be the last.

The next test for Bohannon and Iowa (12-3, 1-3 Big Ten Conference) is at Northwestern (10-5, 1-3) at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The game will be televised on BTN. The Wildcats lead the conference in 3-point defense, allowing only a 27.6 percent success rate.

Not that that will faze Bohannon. When he’s in a zone, he’s hard to contain.

“Everyone has those kind of slumps. It’s just great to see him shoot like his ability,” Iowa center Luka Garza said Sunday. “He’s the best shooter I’ve ever played with in my life.”

Bohannon has made at least five 3-pointers in three of the past four games, after making no more than three in Iowa’s first 11 contests. He even acknowledged that his confidence was shaken for the first time in his hoops-playing life.

“All I’ve ever done is encourage him to keep shooting,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Bohannon. “Set him up. Run stuff for him. Encourage him. He can miss three, four in a row in practice, maybe two that you never expect him to miss, and we just keep telling him to shoot. That’s what he does.”

Nebraska coach Tim Miles said Bohannon turned Sunday’s game around when he banked in a running 3-pointer just ahead of the halftime buzzer. It was his first basket of the game, and emboldened him to start firing away in the second half.

“He’s a really good player in zone attack. He’s in the gap, you know he’s going to get something up,” Miles said. “Bohannon is a very good perimeter player. He’s one of those guys who makes a team better.”

Bohannon appeared relieved after the game. But he was already looking ahead. The Hawkeyes have been terrible in Big Ten road games the past two seasons, falling behind by at least 17 points in all 11 and only winning one — in overtime at Illinois last winter.

“The work I put in my entire life and these past couple weeks, it was bound to happen,” Bohannon said of his big game Sunday.

But …

“We’re in desperate need of a road win to improve our resume. And that’s the goal moving forward.”