How Jordan Bohannon broke his shooting slump and made life easy for Iowa men's basketball
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — With about nine minutes left to play Thursday night, Jordan Bohannon finally got his curtain call.
The sixth-year Iowa men's basketball senior just made his 10th 3-pointer of the game, breaking a 28-year-old school record en route to a 110-87 win at Maryland. Excitement steadily rose on the Iowa bench with each made 3. The emotion that Bohannon displayed postgame was that of relief.
You wouldn't expect a player who's made more than 400 3-pointers in his career to lack in confidence, but it had been that type of stretch for Bohannon recently. Entering Thursday, he had made just nine of his previous 34 attempts, and Iowa had lost three of five games during that span. For the season, he's shooting 35% from long range, an impressive mark but a decline from his near-40% career average.
"People are just used to me shooting 40, 40-plus%," Bohannon said. "I just wasn't finding the basket these last couple of games. I realize I'm still a really great shooter. I wouldn't be the Big Ten's (all-time) leading 3-point shooter if I wasn't. So I put my head down and worked and my teammates continued to keep my confidence up."
How Jordan Bohannon broke his shooting slump
Bohannon described his performance on Thursday night as "regressing back to the mean." For just the fifth time this season, he made more than three 3-pointers, and it came at the perfect time. With a win, Iowa moved back to .500 in Big Ten play (16-7, 6-6).
And for Bohannon it was an exclamation point on a string of big games at Maryland. His first game as a freshman in 2017 saw him connect on eight 3-pointers. Overall, he's a 64% 3-point shooter inside the Xfinity Center (29-for-45).
"I was due for it, in simple words," Bohannon said. "I've worked really hard these last two, three weeks to get out of whatever I was in these last four, five games. All I knew was to put my head down and work. I went to work these last two weeks and, granted, there's still work to be done. But It feels good to have some sort of relief after the struggles I've been through the past couple of games."
How exactly does a shooter break a shooting slump? Bohannon said it's not easy. It's especially difficult in today's climate when dealing with social media, he explained. His underwhelming shooting has been a hot topic on Twitter and elsewhere throughout the season.
"You open your phone and there's thousands of people saying all different things," Bohannon said. "Today's era, it's a lot harder for athletes to regain confidence. A lot of it was blocking out noise and getting back to work. My dad helped me a lot with positivity, confidence and getting back to my roots of believing in God and his plan for me and understanding that I'm here for a reason."
Bohannon expanded on why he came back to Iowa for a final season: to help lead Iowa back to the NCAA Tournament. His return to Iowa was met with a position change, to shooting guard. He started every game there until Sunday, when head coach Fran McCaffery moved him back to his natural point guard spot for the Minnesota game. McCaffery explained that the decision was intended to "free him up." His second game back provided yet another look at what he brings to the position.
"He's comfortable in that capacity," McCaffery said. "You think about him as a 3-point shooter but he has more assists than anyone who's played at Iowa. He knows how to run our offense, whether it's set plays or motion and it enables him to decide more if he's going to pull versus waiting for someone to throw him the ball."
Iowa basketball, Keegan Murray get confidence from Jordan Bohannon making shots
Thursday's game illustrated what many expected Bohannon to bring to this year's Iowa team: elite perimeter shooting, leadership on the court and playmaking when needed. Bohannon had five assists in addition to his 30 points.
Keegan Murray, who matched Bohannon's 30 points, provided a simple analysis after the game: The entire team's confidence grew as a result of Bohannon making shots. As a team, Iowa shot 60% from the field and connected on 19 3-pointers (on nearly 56% shooting), and 11 different players scored a basket.
"When I'm aggressive and looking for my shot, I think the floor opens up a lot," Bohannon said. "I was able to find Keegan on a lot of transition baskets and it opened it up for other guys where it was Payton (Sandfort), Patrick (McCaffery), Tony (Perkins) and (Ahron Ulis) were able to get driving lanes because (Maryland) was closing on me hard and I was able to find them too."
Iowa is counting on more good shooting nights from outside. Bohannon showed what type of team Iowa can be when he's on his game offensively.
The Hawkeyes have won back-to-back games, with another winnable game on Sunday at home against Nebraska. After that, there's a five-game stretch with four home contests and a lone road trip at Nebraska. They have an opportunity for a strong February finish.
"This is a much-needed win," Bohannon said. "We have a stretch here that we need to take care of and just take care of (business) moving forward."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.