Iowa men's basketball prioritizes shooting 3-pointers with confidence in early slate
It's no surprise that the Iowa men's basketball team cruised to a 33-point victory in the season opener against Longwood. The Hawkeyes opened the game on a 23-3 run and maintained their intensity throughout.
One area on offense did surprise, though: 3-point shooting. Iowa shot just 6-for-21 from 3-point range in an exhibition against Slippery Rock, but bounced back nicely on Tuesday night. The Hawkeyes connected on 15-of-33 3-point attempts (45%) and four different players (Jordan Bohannon, Keegan Murray, Kris Murray and Payton Sandfort) made multiple 3-pointers.
Iowa has ranked no lower than fifth in 3-point percentage in the Big Ten over the last six seasons. This year, one of the biggest question marks is if the Hawkeyes can continue that trend as departures Joe Wieskamp and CJ Fredrick left a considerable void. Several players, such as the Murray twins and guards Joe Toussaint and Tony Perkins, spoke extensively about improving as shooters during the off-season.
The exhibition didn't show that growth but it flashed in the regular-season debut. Now the goal is building consistency. Iowa's early set of games will allow for players to build confidence and perhaps lay a foundation to another strong shooting year.
Tuesday night provides a clear example: Keegan Murray connected on a 3-pointer early in the first half. His next shot, only a minute later: another successful 3-pointer. He finished with a career-high three makes. As a team the Hawkeyes made five of their first six 3-point attempts.
"For a shooter or scorer, seeing the first basket go in is always a good sign," said Keegan Murray who scored a career-high 24 points. "Obviously that led to me shooting more and more, teammates kept finding me and I kept making shots. So seeing that first one was very helpful."
Jordan Bohannon's six 3-pointers led the way. He's a known shooting commodity, just four 3-pointers away from the Big Ten's all-time record (374). His move to shooting guard could mean better looks throughout the season.
"I've spent a lot of time in the gym and really worked on my conditioning," Bohannon said. "I've always prided myself on that but moving to (shooting guard) I've taken it to another level and I'm feeling the best that I've ever felt in my life."
Bohannon is the only proven long-range shooter on the roster. True freshman Payton Sandfort (2-for-7) and Patrick McCaffery (0-for-3) had off nights on Tuesday after shooting well in the exhibition.
Following Tuesday's game, coach Fran McCaffery stated that he feels there are enough options to space the floor on any given night. Fifteen threes per night might not be realistic but he sees potential. Friday against the University of Missouri-Kansas City is another opportunity for growth.
"I think we have enough 3-point shooting," McCaffery said. "Patrick will shoot it well but didn't make any (on Tuesday). Payton shot 2-for-7 but is a really good shooter and the others are capable. Connor (McCaffery) made one and is doing well, Tony Perkins didn't shoot well but he's been hitting them in practice.
"There might be some (games) we're not making them. We better do some other things, but I think we have a variety of guys who can stretch the floor."
Kennington Lloyd Smith III covers Iowa Hawkeyes football and men's basketball for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at email@example.com.