By Pat Harty
How many of you saw that coming?
At the risk of getting carried away with the moment, Iowa’s 83-69 victory at No. 24 Maryland on Saturday has to rank as one of the best wins under head coach Fran McCaffery, if not the best.
Can you think of a better one?
The victories over Temple and Davidson in the NCAA Tournament were more significant, but they weren’t more impressive than Saturday’s thumping against the 24th-ranked team in the country.
They didn’t have two freshmen leading the way in a hostile environment, as was the case on Saturday as point guard Jordan Bohannon and power forward Tyler Cook shredded the Terrapins with a potent inside-outside attack.
Iowa went into one of the toughest places to win in the Big Ten and whipped the Terrapins with two freshmen playing the starring roles. That speaks well for the present and for the future.
You kept waiting for Maryland and star guard Melo Trimble to make a run, but it never happened.
Instead, they got run off the court by an Iowa team that started three freshmen and that needs to win as many games as possible just for a chance to make the National Invitation Tournament.
Iowa had little margin for error, and that’s how the 6-foot Bohannon shot on Saturday, making eight of nine 3-point baskets despite having an injured finger on his non-shooting hand.
The former Linn-Mar star made his first trey and then went on to set a UI freshman record for most 3-pointers in a game.
“That first shot, I got a nice look and that’s a shooter’s mentality when you get that first shot to go in, you’re usually going to have a good night,” Bohannon said on the ESPN2 post-game interview. “So I was able to get a good first shot to go down and Tyler and my teammates were finding me.”
Iowa improved to 16-13 overall and 8-8 in the Big Ten with a road game at Wisconsin on Thursday and a home game against Penn State on Sunday all that remains on the schedule.
The victory over Maryland was Iowa's first against a ranked opponent on the road this season. In addition to keeping Iowa's postseason chances alive, the victory also served noticed that McCaffery might have something special brewing in Iowa City.
It might be too late for this season to be special, but the future certainly looks promising after Saturday's victory.
The 6-foot-9, 253-pound Cook is starting to play like you would expect a four-star recruit to play this late in his freshman season. He recorded his first double-double as a Hawkeye on Saturday with 21 points and 10 rebounds, proof that his rebounding is getting better.
It’s hard to recall a game in which Iowa attacked from the post and from the perimeter with as much success as Saturday’s game.
Bohannon was more than just a shooter on Saturday. His ability to feed the post players, particularly Cook, in favorable scoring positions was a key part of the victory. Bohannon also had five assists in 31 minutes.
“I thought we really shared the ball,” McCaffery said. “I thought we played with great cohesion.”
McCaffery also praised his team for being connected on defense and for just being together.
Of course, it helps to stay together when you make 16-of-26 3-point baskets, as Iowa did on Saturday. But you still have to make the shots, and the Iowa players did with regularity.
They silenced a Maryland student section that usually has a lot to cheer about.
They avenged an 84-76 loss to Maryland on Jan. 19 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
And they did all of that despite only getting 11 points from leading scorer Peter Jok.
“He’s going to be a guy that we can count on to move the ball and be a team guy because they’re so focused on him, that’s what he has to be,” McCaffery said of Jok.
Thursday’s game at Wisconsin doesn’t look nearly as hopeless as previously thought. The Badgers lost at Ohio State on Thursday, while Iowa has shown that it can beat the Big Ten’s best on any given day, home or away.
Bohannon should draw plenty of attention against Wisconsin, but not just because of his shooting prowess. Two of his three older brothers played at Wisconsin, so it’ll be strange for Badger fans to see a Bohannon wearing black and gold on Thursday.
Should Iowa defeat the Badgers, a season that appeared to be unraveling just a week ago suddenly would become interesting.
The problem with the current team is you get burned for assuming or expecting anything. Just when you think it’s ready to make a run or ready to collapse, it does just the opposite.
Right now, the vibe is good because of Saturday’s victory.
“We’ve just been grinding this entire season,” Bohannon said. “We’ve been trying to get everything flowing the right way. We have a couple games that we let slip away. But we kept grinding and kept working every single day and we’re able to pull this huge road win out.”
They didn't just pull it out. They yanked it from the Terrapins and refused to let go.