Takeaways: Hawkeyes ride impressive freshmen, shooting to drub Chicago State
IOWA CITY, Ia. — The whistle had already blown. But from a few steps inside the half-court line — a good 40 feet — Jordan Bohannon heaved it anyway.
"I always shoot those. You see Steph Curry do it all the time," the sophomore point guard said of his shooting idol. "I think it's kind of funny — just throw up a shot. Refs normally don't care."
It didn’t count, of course. But it was that kind of shooting night for the Hawkeyes, who sizzled their way to a 95-62 rout of lowly Chicago State in their basketball season opener Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
For the night, Iowa shot 59.6 percent, including 12 of 22 (57.1 percent) from 3-point range. But it was in the mid-60s for most of the game, pulling away from an opponent that went 6-26 last season and held a KenPom.com rating of 334 out of 351 Division I teams.
"We have a lot of shooters on this team," Bohannon said. "Coach (Fran McCaffery) has been giving us all the green light."
The Hawkeyes (1-0) return to the floor here at 3:05 p.m. Sunday against Alabama State, which entered Friday with a KenPom rating of 338 and lost to Mississippi State 96-68 Then they get Grambling State (KenPom 344) on Thursday.
(Don't worry, the schedule cranks up shortly thereafter.)
A look at some key happenings Friday:
One game in, it’s clear: These freshmen belong.
Sure, it’s just Chicago State. But 6-foot-11 rookies Luka Garza and Jack Nunge were two of the smoothest players on the floor Friday night.
"They're both versatile. They have good court demeanor. And they don't get rattled," McCaffery said. "They make plays at both ends. They're not mistake guys. ... So really impressive, those two guys."
Garza canned all six of his shot attempts, even curling out for a sweet 14-footer from the left baseline after blocking a Cougar shot on the other end then running the floor to get open.
The Washington, D.C., native finished with 16 points — three shy of the school-record 19 shared by Dick Ives and Aaron White for points by a freshman in his debut — in just 18 minutes. He also grabbed five rebounds and blocked three shots.
Nunge, meanwhile, showed impressive body control during one first-half drive to the bucket — scoring and drawing the foul. The Newburgh, Indiana, native finished with 10 points, four rebounds and four steals in 19 minutes.
"I think I did pretty well," Nunge said. "The exhibition games helped a lot, playing in front of the fans on the main court with all the lights."
JoBo shines, Connor sits
There’s little question that Bohannon is the most indispensable Hawkeye, and that was even more apparent Friday when his only true backup was sidelined.
Connor McCaffery missed the game after spraining his ankle during practice. It’s not serious, but there’s a good chance he’ll skip Sunday’s game, too, as a precaution.
"Probably (back) Thursday," the coach said.
Bohannon, meanwhile, picked up where he left off last year, when he drained a freshman-record 89 3-pointers and registered double-doubles in Iowa's final three games.
Bohannon canned four first-half 3-pointers — too bad that long one didn’t count — from a variety of distances and locations and ended with those 12 points plus six assists in 21 minutes.
When Bohannon did depart, Brady Ellingson (nine points) manned the point with Maishe Dailey (career-high 10 points) at the 2.
How Fran rotated
Minus junior forward Nicholas Baer (whose broken pinky finger will keep him out until at least late this month), it was going to be interesting to see how McCaffery approached his rotation.
The starters were Bohannon, Isaiah Moss (14 points), Ahmad Wagner, Tyler Cook (12 points, six rebounds) and Garza.
Wagner — more of a rugged forward than a true ‘3’ — dished out assists on Iowa’s first three baskets.
The first three off the bench were Nunge, Cordell Pemsl and Ellingson. If you add Baer and McCaffery to the mix, once they're healthy, that’s 10.
Dailey, Ryan Kriener and senior Dom Uhl were the last three in the top 13 off McCaffery’s bench, in that order.
Moss looked good in his return from a sprained ankle that forced him to miss Iowa's two exhibition games. He was 4-for-6 from 3-point range in just 13 minutes.
"He's incredibly talented. He's quick off the dribble, makes 3s, has a pull-up game," Fran McCaffery said. "... What you're seeing is a guy that is maturing."
Cook's amazing streak
Cook on Friday continued his incredible shooting run that spans eight months. The sophomore made all four of his shot attempts vs. Chicago State and — no kidding — has made 22 consecutive field-goal attempts.
Can it keep going forever?
“That’d be nice if I could do that," Cook grinned. "But I was just getting easy looks today. When I’m shooting 2 feet from the hoop, I’d better make them all.”
Cook made his final three attempts vs. Indiana in the Big Ten Conference tournament, then went 15-for-15 in two NIT games, then was perfect again Friday.
He wishes he could say the same about his free throws.
Hopefully for the Hawkeyes, the free-throw yips from both Cook and Garza can be chalked up to first-game jitters.
Each big man missed the first three foul shots he attempted Friday night.
The good news: Cook made his next four after the 0-for-3 start; Garza made four of his next five.
"I want to get to the line as much as possible. I'm confident at the line," said Cook, who has worked hard on his stroke after shooting 59.8 percent from the stripe last year. "Left 'em short, rolled around, rolled in, rolled out. I'll be fine. I don't anticipate having too many 4-of-7 nights."
Converting the freebies is something that each guy must do this fall, or else opponents will play them more aggressively, without much penalty for fouling. Garza is known to have a solid free-throw stroke; the head coach has said as much.
"Very uncharacteristic for him," McCaffery said. "He's usually an 80-percenter. That's where I expect him to be."