By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – After seeing the ball fall through the basket at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Jordan Bohannon turned and faced the other direction, clinched both fists and appeared to yell something.
It was impossible to know what he said from press row, but it was probably something like, “finally, I’ve got my touch back.”
This jubilant reaction came after Bohannon had made the fourth of his five 3-point baskets that helped Iowa defeat Nebraska 93-84 on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Fans cheered wildly knowing that Iowa is much more difficult to defend when its sharpshooting junior point guard with range up to 30 feet is feeling it, or in the zone.
The problem is that Bohannon hasn’t felt it as much as what was expected this season. He has certainly had his moments from 3-point range, but what he did against Nebraska has been the exception more than the rule, especially against Big Ten opponents.
And that’s probably why Bohannon showed so much emotion after making his fourth 3-pointer against Nebraska. His basket expanded Iowa’s lead to 75-68 with just over five minutes remaining.
Bohannon’s first 3-pointer of the game came on a running 30-footer that he banked in right before the halftime buzzer.
It was huge from a momentum standpoint, but it wasn’t necessarily proof that Bohannon was in a zone because making that kind of shot might have been as much about luck as skill.
But after making his fourth trey against Nebraska, Bohannon knew he was in the zone and that his touch was back, at least for a night.
His teammates also knew it.
“It’s the same thing with all shooters, everyone has slumps, and It was great to be able to see him shoot at his ability,” said Iowa sophomore center Luka Garza. “He’s a tremendous shooter. The best shooter I’ve ever played with in my life. So you know those are going to fall.”
The hope is that the Nebraska game was a sign of things to come from Bohannon, who will undoubtedly be a marked man when Iowa (12-3, 1-3) plays at Northwestern (10-5, 1-3) on Wednesday in the newly renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Ill.
Junior shooting guard Isaiah Moss is also coming off a solid performance against Nebraska in which he scored 10 points and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds.
“We feel like we’ve sort of got a complete package offensively,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Tuesday on a teleconference. “But sometimes guys have off nights and teams lock in defensively on certain things and you have to win a different way.
“So when Jordan is playing the way he’s playing, and obviously, Isaiah, I think he’s been terrific all year, that makes us that much harder to guard.”
Bohannon is always encouraged to shoot, even when his shots aren’t falling, because his teammates and coaches know that it’s only a matter of time before he gets hot again.
The former Linn-Mar star combined to make 185 3-point baskets in his first two seasons at Iowa, and that helped him earn a great amount of trust and patience from his head coach.
“I never said a word to him about, hey, turn that shot down and throw it here,” McCaffery said. “He knows what he’s got to do. We’ve got bigs who can score. We’ve got perimeter guys who make shots, get the ball to them. Look for your shot. If we’re pushing it, push it. If we’re in motion, run motion. If we’re running set plays, run it.
“But at any point in time, he’s got the green light to shoot the ball and that never changed.”
The 6-foot-1 Bohannon showed signs late in the nonconference portion of the schedule that he might have rediscovered his touch.
He made six 3-point baskets against Savannah State and five against Bryant in back-to-back games.
But then he only made 1-of-3 shots from 3-point range in a loss at Purdue last Thursday.
Bohannon said he should’ve been more aggressive against Purdue, which made stopping him a priority on defense.
Bohannon entered this season shooting a blistering 42.3 percent from 3-point range. But his percentage has dipped 10 points below that this season, although, now it’s back on the rise at 37.6 percent heading into the Northwestern game.
“I think two of those games over the break where he hit six in one game and five in the other, I thought that was good for him,” McCaffery said. “In one game, he took 14 threes, and I thought that was good for him.
“So I just thought getting his rhythm back, he had some really good games for us, but his numbers were just a little bit off. But now they’re climbing back to where I think they’ll end up, which is typically over forty percent from three.”
Bohannon never will be known for his defense, but as a 3-point shooter, he takes a backseat to nobody when his shots are falling.
He can score on the move or from a stationary position, and there is more space for his teammates to operate when his shots are falling.
“Bohannon is just a very good player, a very good perimeter player,” said Nebraska head coach Tim miles. “He’s one of those guys that just makes his team so much better.”
Iowa vs Northwestern
When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.
Where: Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanstion, Ill.
TV: Big Ten Network