Hoops takeaways: Bohannon's uncanny cool, extended look at Cook/Pemsl

Matthew Bain

Michigan's Moritz Wagner (13) and Iowa's Jordan Bohannon battle for a loose ball during Sunday's game in Iowa City.

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Michigan basketball coach John Beilein was near the end of his postgame press conference when a reporter asked him about Jordan Bohannon, who’d just keyed Iowa’s 86-83 overtime win against the Wolverines.

Beilein, a nationally respected tactical savant entering his 39th year as a college coach, shook his head, eyebrows slightly cocked.

"His numbers are showing it right now: As a freshman, you are going to enjoy watching him for the next four years," Beilein said to a room filled mostly with Hawkeye reporters. "I don’t know where he was in the recruiting world or where he was recruited, but that kid is playing as good as any freshman point guard in the country."

Just looking at the Michigan game, it’s hard to disagree.

Bohannon finished with 17 points, six assists and four rebounds. Twice this season, he’s scored in the 20s. But this game was easily Bohannon’s most efficient.

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He shot 75 percent (6-for-8), a season best. He committed zero turnovers for the second straight game, giving him 10 assists and zero cough-ups in his past 54 minutes.

And eight of his 17 points came on three go-ahead baskets in the final minutes of regulation and overtime, when the 19-year-old beguiled the 13,988 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena with his uncanny cool.

“He’s just a hooper,” said senior teammate Peter Jok, who scored 25.

Bohannon drilled a no-hesitation, transition 3-pointer to go up 72-71 with 1:58 left in the second half.

He cut into the paint, dribbling with his weaker left hand, before spinning in a righty reverse layup to go up 76-74 with 3:54 left in overtime.

On the next possession, another icy-veined 3 to go up 79-77 with 3:17 left.

“He’s not scared of those moments,” Jok said, “and it showed tonight.”

Bohannon was quick to point out his mistakes — “I think I rushed a quick pass over the top. Luckily it got tipped.” — but he agreed with Jok. Crunch time doesn't faze him, he said.

And he credits a lot of that to his three older brothers: Jason, who played basketball at Wisconsin; Zach, who played at Air Force and Wisconsin; and Matt, who played at Northern Iowa.

"I’ve been shooting with them most of my life, and we’ve all been putting up shots together," the youngest Bohannon said. "We’ve all been happy for each other when we’re doing well. They’re all giving me advice, giving me positive stuff to work on. And stuff to keep my confidence up and stuff like that.

"Those big shots all come back to those shots we put up together."

Freshman teammate Tyler Cook smiled when asked about Bohannon's day.

"A hell of a player," he said. "I mean, you guys saw that tonight. There’s not even much to say about that."

Coach Fran McCaffery had more to say: "He’s a special player. He plays at his pace. He’s really intelligent, he thinks the game, he processes the game plan and the information we give him. And then he’s able to make adjustments as the game goes on. But there’s no panic in him."

Extended look at Cook/Pemsl combo

Cook and fellow freshman Cordell Pemsl started Sunday and played together just north of 25 minutes — their first significant chunk of simultaneous court time since Cook broke his finger and Pemsl earned a more substantial role.

The numbers: Cook scored 11 and got eight rebounds; Pemsl recorded four points, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and three steals. When both were on the floor, Iowa outscored Michigan 52-43.

The paint got clogged occasionally. That’ll improve, McCaffery said, as the two freshmen log more minutes together and acclimate to playing alongside each other.

For the most part, though, Cook and Pemsl spaced the floor well, even though all 15 of their points came inside or from the charity stripe. Cook took a few 18-20-footers — he missed them, but he took them.

"It felt better today," Cook said. "We’re kind of getting used to having each other around, seeing where our favorite spots are on the court. There were still some times where I was unsure where he is and where I should go, but better than the last game even. So we’re going, and we’ll get there."

'A little more reckless abandon'

Brady Ellingson continues to impress McCaffery off the bench. The redshirt sophomore scored six Sunday, giving him 35 points on 11-of-16 shooting over the past four games.

He scored four points on back-to-back possessions about midway through the first: a mid-range jumper and a righty layup, set up by an assertive dribble drive.

"What we’re trying to get him to do is play with a little more reckless abandon, be a little more aggressive with that shot," McCaffery said. "You have a special gift — you can really shoot the ball, you can score the ball. Go ahead and do it. Trust your talent. And you’re seeing it a little bit more. He’s only a sophomore, so I think little by little, you’ll see it even more."

Youngest lineup since WWII

Four Hawkeye freshmen started Sunday: Cook, Pemsl, Bohannon and Isaiah Moss. Jok also started.

According to Iowa athletics, before Sunday the Hawkeyes’ youngest starting lineup was in the 1943-44 season, when then-head coach Pops Harrison ran out three freshmen, a sophomore and a senior.

Bain covers Hawkeyes' basketball for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Des Moines Register and HawkCentral. Contact him at mbain@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.