The trust in Connor McCaffery was apparent on a day in which he barely played.
McCaffery had sprained his ankle early in Iowa’s game last Saturday at Rutgers, and looked to be out for the rest of the game.
But with four seconds to play, when Iowa needed someone for a critical inbounds pass leading by one point, coach Fran McCaffery, Connor’s dad, knew he could rely on his son.
“He doesn’t panic,” Fran McCaffery said after the Hawkeyes’ 77-75 win. “He knows the situation. He knows where guys are supposed to go. He knows guys are going to make secondary cuts. He gets rid of the ball at the right time. It’s one of those things, when you’re coming down the stretch, and teams are pressing, he’s the most important guy on the floor.
“My staff, all the guys on the team, were (saying), ‘Put Connor in.’ I said, ‘You ready?’ He said, ‘I can do it.’”
McCaffery got the ball to Joe Wieskamp, who was fouled instantly. Wieskamp then made the first of two free throws for the final margin.
“He got the job done,” McCaffery said of his son. “Got the ball to Weezy, got them to foul.”
It’s that kind of trust the Hawkeyes have in Connor, the fourth-year junior who is a stabilizing part of a team that moved to 10-2 overall, 4-1 in the Big Ten, with Thursday’s 89-67 win at Maryland.
He had a career-high 10 assists without a turnover in Thursday’s game. He leads the Big Ten, and is sixth in Division I play, in assist-to-turnover ratio at plus-5, a season after leading the nation in that category. He has 22 assists against two turnovers in his last four games.
He had 10 games last season in which he did not have a turnover. He played 30 or more minutes in five of those games, and in four of those games played between 36-39 minutes.
“He’s a worker,” guard Jordan Bohannon said. “He’s got a high basketball IQ. And any time you have a guy out there who knows how to play the game of basketball, it’s going to benefit your team greatly.”
“I’ve said this so many times, he’s the best post-entry passer I’ve ever played with,” said center Luka Garza. “He makes the job easy for me. He’s patient, he waits for me. He gets me the ball at the right time.”
“He’s just such a critical component to making everything work,” Fran McCaffery said. “Provides a level of toughness. He moves (the ball). Defensively, he’s always communicating, always helping the young guys. I can’t say enough about the great things he does.”
It is that basketball IQ that Bohannon spoke about that makes Connor a crucial part of this team.
“We were talking last night about how we were going to attack their offense, how we were going to play the two-man game,” said Garza, who had a game-high 24 points. “We’re really lucky to have a player like that on our team. He’s the man.”
It’s why it was important to get him back for a critical road game.
“It makes everybody feel better,” McCaffery said of his son’s return.
“We knew when he came back for this game, we would just get right back into the flow,” Bohannon said. “He’s just a phenomenal teammate. He’s someone you greatly appreciate when you’re on the team with him.”