Iowa-Nebraska takeaways: Bohannon nears, reveres Chris Street record; evaluating defensive effort

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

LINCOLN, Neb. — Send Jordan Bohannon on the road, he heats up.

Send him to the free throw line, he’s even hotter.

The Iowa sophomore guard has a few incredible streaks going.

Bohannon canned six 3-pointers in the Hawkeyes’ 98-84 Saturday loss at Nebraska — no kidding, the fifth consecutive true road game in which the Marion product has made at least five 3s.

He made five at Iowa State; five at Maryland; five at Illinois; five at Rutgers. And now six (on 11 attempts) at Pinnacle Bank Arena, highlighting a terrific stat line in defeat — 24 points, seven assists and no turnovers while playing all 40 minutes.

Although he got called for the foul here against James Palmer Jr., Iowa's Tyler Cook (5) was a handful for Nebraska on Saturday with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel fine,” he said afterward.

Road coolness has always been a thing for Bohannon. He made seven 3-pointers in his first college start last year at Notre Dame; he made a career-best eight in a rousing win at Maryland; his clutch 3 in the final seconds stunned Wisconsin and the Kohl Center last year.

Iowa’s next road game? Saturday at Penn State. Stay tuned.

But Bohannon's other streak could get a lot more attention soon: He has 26 consecutive free throws without a miss after going 2-for-2 Saturday.

He doesn’t need anyone to tell him who holds that school record.

The late Chris Street’s 34 free throws in a row is a record that's lasted 25 years. Street was 2-for-2 at Duke on Jan. 16, 1993, to reach 34 in a row. He never attempted another. He was killed three days later in a car accident.

Bohannon talked with reverence Saturday about the possibility of breaking the record of Street, whose No. 40 jersey is retired at Iowa.

“I try not to think about it too much,” Bohannon said. “But obviously that record means a lot for me and for the Chris Street family. I’ve talked about Mike and Patty (Chris’ parents), how much they’ve meant to the university and the entire state of Iowa. We’ll see what happens. If I get there, I get there. If I don’t, the record deserves to stay in his name.”

A totally classy answer from a totally classy Hawkeye.

If anyone breaks Street’s mark, no doubt Bohannon — an underdog native Iowan — would be a worthy guy to do it.

Cook is a handful

Will Tyler Cook turn pro early? Probably not. Although Nebraska coach Tim Miles thinks he should … in football.

Miles was fearful about the matchup with big-bodied Cook — a muscular 6-foot-9, 255 pounds — before Saturday’s game.

“He’s a physical, bruising, athletic player,” Miles said. “He looks like he should be playing in the NFL to me. He looks like he should declare now … for the NFL.”

Cook laughed when he heard what was said by Miles, whose premonition was correct: The Iowa sophomore was an inside force, with 24 points and 10 rebounds. His sixth career double-double included several thunderous dunks.

“I was trying to battle down there. Trying to fight,” Cook said. “(Miles) has got a couple guys that can make a lot of money playing football as well.”

Cook was fantastic on the offensive end Saturday. He was unstoppable at times. He needs to improve defensively. He needs to develop a consistent 15-footer. But his explosiveness and ability to control a game have been positives in an otherwise disappointing Hawkeye season.

About that defense…

This might be the most damning stat yet regarding Iowa’s defense: Saturday marked the third time this season that the Hawkeyes have allowed a Big Ten opponent to exceed 90 points in regulation.

The previous seven regular seasons under McCaffery? It only happened five times, total.

Was effort the problem Saturday?

“At times,” Cook said. “At times, we laid it all out there. At times, we didn’t.”

Effort can be a tricky thing for outsiders to judge or comment on. How do you really know how much a guy is giving?

When asked to evaluate his team’s defensive effort, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery gave an interesting, in-depth answer:

“I think we were trying. I’ve said this to you before: Our defensive execution has not been good.

“Let’s say you’re the guy that’s got to help on the roll. You’re not going to stay there forever; you’ve got to eventually rotate out on someone else. And it’s got to be done quickly, right? You know, they’ve got you spread (out). They’re moving the ball. They recognize that.

“I think, sometimes, our anticipation of where the ball’s going and what they’re doing is maybe a little bit slow sometimes. It may look like, OK, it’s lack of effort. But we’ve got guys trying to figure out where’s the ball going: What are they doing? Where do I have to go? If you’ve got a team that’s going to make the next pass and share the ball, it’s going to be hard to guard.”

This Iowa team (11-12 overall, 2-8 Big Ten Conference) hasn’t shown much promise, defensively. But it’s still a young core. Positive steps are needed the rest of the way.

One Hawkeye goes missing

The most perplexing Hawkeye performance of Saturday’s game was that of Isaiah Moss.

The sophomore guard was sensational here last year, scoring 15 first-half points in what became a 93-90 double-overtime loss.

But Pinnacle Bank Arena was not kind to Moss this time. His shot was off. Way off. Moss air-balled one 3-point attempt very badly. For the game, he finished with two points in 18 minutes, on 1 of 6 shooting.

Interestingly, it was the fourth time Moss (who averages 11 points a game) has been held to exactly two points. The other three times were also road games (Virginia Tech, Indiana, Rutgers).

What’s the deal?

Moss must develop consistency. When he's good, the Hawkeyes usually are, too.

One Hawkeye (maybe) is found

Hello again, Jack Nunge.

Although the 6-foot-11 freshman misfired on all four of his first-half shot attempts, he seemed to gain bursts of confidence in a return to more playing time.

After playing just two minutes Tuesday against Wisconsin, he got 22 Saturday. It was the most minutes Nunge had played since the 23 he played against Iowa State on Dec. 7.

“I thought he earned those,” McCaffery said. “He was starting (earlier in the year). He was playing great. Then he kind of went into a little bit of a shooting slump, and I thought he got down on himself a little bit. But I’ve stayed positive with him.”

McCaffery said he had been considering getting Nunge back in the flow lately. Saturday, when Luka Garza faced foul trouble early, provided an opportunity.

This could be important. Nunge has a tantalizing skill set. He’s a big guy who can shoot the 3, block shots and score inside. He just seems to lack confidence.

Developing Nunge is key as Iowa increasingly must face the reality that it's playing for next season. He finished with five points and four rebounds Saturday, a late 3-pointer his only basket. Still … it’s a step.

“He’s just staying positive,” said teammate Cordell Pemsl, who called Nunge a good friend. “Everybody has their ups and downs throughout the season, but it’s good to see him still staying positive.

“I’m going to make sure that he’s OK, and that he’s going to keep playing hard.”