By Pat Harty
Zach Bohannon made a promise to his younger brother that he would attend all of Iowa’s games this season.
Even the Rutgers game in New Jersey.
Zach made a one-day trip from his home in Cedar Rapids to Piscataway, N.J. on Tuesday to watch the Hawkeyes face Rutgers, and what he saw was dominance pretty much from start to finish.
Zach saw his younger brother, freshman point guard Jordan Bohannon, lead the Hawkeyes in scoring with 17 points during an 83-63 victory in Piscataway, N.J.
Zach also saw Iowa win its first road game this season with four freshmen leading the way in scoring.
Iowa improved to 2-0 without leading scorer Peter Jok, who missed his second consecutive game because of a back injury.
The Hawkeyes also pulled even in the Big Ten at 5-5 and are13-10 overall with a home game against Nebraska up next on Sunday.
So what looked like a potential crisis when Jok went down has been just the opposite.
The Iowa players have used a group effort to compensate for Jok’s absence as evidenced by the statistics from Tuesday's game. Iowa had 24 assists on 30 baskets in Tuesday’s game, along with 15 steals.
“That’s been the main thing, just having everybody calm down and realize where we’re at right now and where we want to go,” Jordan Bohannon said on the post-game radio show. “We’ve been doing a really good job with people coming off the bench and stepping up and providing a lot of energy.
“And I think the other main thing so far is trying to get (good) start to games and trying to get energy from the get go. And we did that the past two games and we need to keep increasing that.”
Iowa bolted to a 26-6 lead and wasn’t really threatened again after that. The Hawkeyes led by as many as 25 points in the first half and led 48-30 at halftime.
Rutgers needed an 11-4 scoring run to close the first half just to make it an 18-point deficit at halftime.
The Scarlet Knights had shown considerable improvement in their last two games in which they defeated Nebraska and almost upset Wisconsin.
But they looked helpless and overmatched against an Iowa team that was missing its leading scorer.
“It didn’t matter what lineup was on the floor,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “And that’s the key. Everybody contributed.”
That’s sort of been the theme without Jok. All the players have taken it upon themselves to lift their performance level.
Iowa made 11 3-point baskets in Tuesday’s game, including five by Jordan Bohannon, and had 10 players who scored.
Sophomore forward Nicholas Baer only scored three points, but he still impacted the game on both ends with five rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks.
Sophomore guard Brady Ellingson also had five assists and zero turnovers, while Bohannon finished with four assists and zero turnovers.
Iowa was unselfish and efficient, much to the delight of McCaffery.
“I just couldn’t be more proud of their attention to detail and their fight,” McCaffery said. “I think they knew what we got the last time we played these guys, what kind of fight we got. They saw what they did on Saturday against Wisconsin. They had Wisconsin beat, so we were ready.”
McCaffery was referring to Iowa’s 68-62 victory over Rutgers on Jan. 8 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Jok led Iowa with 18 points in the first game, which had eight lead changes and four ties.
His supporting cast has shown that it can do more than just survive without Jok, it can thrive without him.
So it’ll be interesting to see how the offense flows once Jok returns, which could be as soon as Sunday.
Jok should have more confidence in his teammates after seeing them win two games decisively without him. Iowa didn’t face the toughest competition in the last two games, but it also didn’t struggle to defeat Rutgers or Ohio State.
This is turning into a spectacular story when we least expected it to be.
It makes sense why Zach Bohannon, who played basketball for Wisconsin, would want to be a part of it.