Iowa's return to Maryland rekindles better basketball times

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Positive signs have been tough to come by this week for the Iowa basketball program.

But perhaps one is about to welcome the struggling Hawkeyes.

After back-to-back home Big Ten Conference losses, last-place Iowa returns Sunday to Maryland’s Xfinity Center, site of a breakthrough moment for these young Hawkeyes just 10½ months ago.

Jordan Bohannon, left, and the Hawkeyes were a step ahead of Maryland last year in College Park. Bohannon hit eight 3-pointers in a season-turning victory.

On Feb. 25, Iowa outraced and outshot the Terrapins, canning 16 of 26 3-point attempts on the way to an 83-69 win in the face of a crowd of 17,615 that arrived raucous and left stunned.

“We’ll show them some highlights of what we did well,” Hawkeye coach Fran McCaffery said following Thursday's 92-81 loss to Ohio State in which problems were aplenty. “We really pushed it. We really executed in that game. I thought our defense was good. Our zone was really active.”

And Jordan Bohannon was fantastic.

The then-freshman buried eight of Iowa’s 3-pointers on 10 attempts, many of them from ridiculous distance, and led the Hawkeyes with 24 points.

“You don’t get much better than that,” said teammate Tyler Cook, who had 21 points (many coming on run-out dunks) with 10 rebounds in that game. “Jordan is one of the best guards in our league. When you’ve got a guy that hit 8 of 10 3s in a basketball game that’s packed, that’s a special player.”

In fact, Bohannon's been terrific both times the Hawkeyes' plane has landed for a game in the Washington, D.C., metro area. He also poured in 24 points in the Big Ten Tournament loss to Indiana at the Verizon Center.

In two games in the region known as the "DMV," Bohannon is 14-for-21 from 3-point range and averaging 24.0 points and 7.5 assists.

“Something about the East Coast that makes me shoot well, I guess,” Bohannon said. “We played really well as a team at Maryland. Hopefully we can look back on that game last year and try to take some things from it. Because that was kind of a turning point.”

Indeed, it was.

Just two games removed from a jarring home loss to Illinois, the Hawkeyes had slayed one of the Big Ten’s front-runners on the road.

Then five days later, they repeated the feat — winning at Wisconsin, with Bohannon again the road hero.

A four-game win streak to finish the regular season moved the Hawkeyes from 6-8 in the Big Ten to 10-8 ... and into the NCAA Tournament conversation. That's a place they thought they’d be again this year.

But they're far from it.

At 9-8 overall with a slew of bad losses and no overly impressive wins, they would need a miracle turnaround to even have an NCAA shot.

So now, the immediate goal is as basic as it gets: Find something positive. Maybe it starts with Sunday’s 7 p.m. CT game, the first of three in a row on the Big Ten road.

Re-watching last year’s Maryland tape should stir positive memories for these young-but-not-inexperienced Hawkeyes, reminding them of their potential.

Maybe it’ll also help them discover something that Bohannon said the team is inexplicably missing, 17 games in.

“As much as I hate to say it, we’re still trying to find our identity,” Bohannon said. “Which is tough to say midway through the season. Some teams are like that. They always say Rome wasn’t built in one day. We just have to keep working.”

Maryland (13-4, 2-2) is also regrouping.

Not only did Mark Turgeon’s team recently lose talented sophomore forward Justin Jackson for the season with a shoulder injury, it just had a seven-game winning streak end emphatically, with a 30-point loss at Michigan State.

While the Hawkeyes’ problems are plentiful, they showed last year at Maryland that if they get clicking, they can get hot in a hurry.

“I have full faith in our team,” forward Nicholas Baer said, “that we’ll be able to get a couple of wins on the road.”

Sunday’s game

Who: Iowa (9-8, 0-4 Big Ten) at Maryland (13-4, 2-2)

Time, TV: 7 p.m. CT, Fox Sports 1

The matchup: Anthony Cowan leads the Terrapins at 16.2 points per game, while Kevin Huerter averages 14.2 and is 45.7 percent (42 of 92) this season from 3-point range. … … The Terrapins are one of the nation’s worst ball-handling teams; they turn it over on 22.4 percent of possessions, which ranks 318th out of 351 Division I teams. By comparison, Iowa ranks 164th at 18.8 percent. ... Iowa’s Tyler Cook is averaging 20.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in Big Ten play.