By JOHN BOHNENKAMP
The great ones need to be reminded every now and then why they’re great.
It’s why Iowa coach Fran McCaffery met with fifth-year senior guard Jordan Bohannon and told him to be himself, the shooter full of confidence that has built a career of big shots.
It was a “little nudge,” Bohannon said.
Bohannon’s 24 points were a big part of why the 10th-ranked Hawkeyes rolled over No. 19 Northwestern, 87-72, on Tuesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Bohannon matched his season high that he had against North Carolina earlier in the month. But since then, Bohannon has averaged 5.4 points in Iowa’s last five games.
So McCaffery thought Bohannon needed a little reminder of all that he has done in his career.
“I think most players would appreciate that,” McCaffery said. “When you're a fifth-year senior who has made over 300 threes he probably doesn't need as much, but I gave it to him anyway. I had a long talk with him and just reminded him how great he is, who he is, what our team needs, and just go out and play with that kind of confidence and sort of reckless abandon, while at the same time running the show.
“So it has to be a great feeling for him right now with how he played, because he knows he’s capable of it.”
“He was preaching what he always has been since I’ve been here,” Bohannon said. “He has all of the confidence in me, and that’s why he recruited me, because of how I’ve played on the court with my swag, and how much different we are on the court when I’m like that. He really hasn’t been seeing that in this part of the season.”
Bohannon is coming off a season of surgeries on both hips, the second one ended his season last December. He has said this is the best he has felt in his career, but even he admitted he hasn’t felt his best lately.
“I didn’t feel like myself in these first seven, eight games,” Bohannon said. “I just really haven’t been moving as well. I know I have a lot of catching up to do, to get back in my rhythm.”
Bohannon was 7 of 11 from the field, including 6 of 9 on 3-pointers, and added five rebounds and five assists.
“He stuck his nose on the glass,” McCaffery said. “Five rebounds ... you're playing a team that shot 25 threes, so there are going to be some coming long. Your guards have to rebound the ball.”
Bohannon’s defense on Northwestern’s Boo Buie — he was held to two points — was just as important for what the Hawkeyes accomplished.
Bohannon played a season-high 35 minutes, including the entire second half as Joe Toussaint sat out because of a sprained ankle.
“He had a couple of games that wouldn’t be up to his standards,” McCaffery said. “He’s a competitor, as fierce of a competitor as I’ve been around. He challenged himself to do what he does, and it was fun to watch.”
It was a night for the guards as Northwestern focused much of its defense on stopping Iowa center Luka Garza.
CJ Fredrick had 19 points, 17 in the first half. Joe Wieskamp had 10.
Garza was held to 18 points, snapping his streak of 18 consecutive Big Ten games of 20 points or more.
Northwestern coach Chris Collins knew that by slowing Garza, the Wildcats had to hope Iowa’s guards wouldn’t make shots.
“He affects your defensive game plan greatly, because he’s unstoppable one-on-one,” Collins said of the Wildcats’ plan to consistently double-team Garza.
“We knew he was going to score — he’s not going to go scoreless. But (Bohannon and Fredrick) really picked them up.”
Northwestern came into the game as one of the last two undefeated teams in Big Ten play. The Wildcats constantly challenged the Hawkeyes, fighting back from a 9-point halftime deficit.
But a technical foul on Pete Nance in the second half disrupted the Wildcats, who were within 65-60 when Nance blocked Keegan Murray’s shot and then said something which led to the technical. Bohannon made two free throws after the technical, and then the Hawkeyes scored nine of the next 11 points.
“Obviously something was said, but it happened at the other end of the court,” Collins said. “I did think it came at a key point in the game. We had gotten into a rhythm.”
Bohannon was happy to be back into a rhythm.
It’s something Collins has seen way too many times before.
“I feel,” he joked, “like I’ve been coaching against him for a hundred years.”
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