Hlas: A good-news night for Iowa men's basketball

Hawkeyes rough up Minnesota, 94-80

IOWA CITY — Jordan Bohannon is good.

You know what a really good stat-line is for a point guard? It’s 20-10-3-2. That’s 20 points, 10 assists, three steals, and just two turnovers.

It hasn’t been the most-wonderful January in Iowa men’s basketball history, but Bohannon didn’t just show up for the first time Tuesday in the Hawkeyes’ 94-80 win over Minnesota. Over his last eight games, the sophomore is averaging 18.8 points and 6.8 assists. Not too shabby.

“He’s a phenomenal shooter,” Gophers Coach Richard Pitino said. “We gave him way too much space. You can’t give him any space.”

But the best thing about this game from Iowa’s standpoint was that it wasn’t just the Bo Show, or the Bohannon/Tyler Cook Show. Power forward Cook had a double-double of his own with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

No, all five Hawkeye starters and reserve forward Cordell Pemsl scored in double-digits. Isaiah Moss, a rumor at Nebraska last Saturday, matched Bohannon’s four 3-pointers. Freshman big man Jack Nunge gave his team nine nice uninterrupted minutes of well-spent energy in the second half.

“I think I was pretty active at the defensive end,” said Nunge, who blocked two shots.

Oh, the defense looks so much better when the foe doesn’t drain 3-pointers. Minnesota was just 7 of 25 from that distance. Iowa was 12 of 25. There’s your game.

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As marquee events go, this wasn’t one. The crowd was just 10,371 for an 8 p.m. Tuesday tilt. The Hawkeyes came in with no buzz. The two teams brought a combined Big Ten record of 5-15.

But a game of relatively little consequence is nothing to complain about when compared to what has gone on elsewhere in the Big Ten this month.

Michigan State, which brings its men’s basketball team here next Tuesday, suddenly is a university with a reputation for not punishing sexual abusers. That’s grotesque.

Minnesota, a team preseason predictions unanimously considered a third- or fourth-place team in the Big Ten, has been foundering this month. Starting center Reggie Lynch was suspended until 2020 because the school had found him responsible for violating the school’s Code of Student Conduct related to sexual assault, stalking and relationship violence.

The biggest news surrounding Hawkeye athletics this month was the discovery Iowa had extended men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery’s contract, with a hefty addition to his buyout should he be fired without cause.

The controversial part of the extension was that Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta didn’t say anything about it when the deal was done late last November, after the Hawkeyes had lost to Louisiana, South Dakota State and Virginia Tech.

“I could’ve announced it. I chose not to,” Barta told the Des Moines Register.

Yet, Iowa will still hurry to send press releases every time a football player is on a preseason award watch list or there’s a directive for fans to wear a certain color of clothing to a home game.

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The secrecy was a lot weirder than the extension. The buyout seems a bit on the humongous side, but former Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema’s buyout by Arkansas has been reported as $11.935 million. Nice non-work if you can get it.

It’s not like Barta will ever fire McCaffery (or football coach Kirk Ferentz) without cause, anyway.

But none of that mattered Tuesday night. Life is good when you shoot 55 percent from the field as Iowa did.

This could have been a preview game for the Wednesday play-ins at the Big Ten tournament. Or maybe not. It’s a modest goal, but Iowa can escape the first day in Madison Square Garden if it finishes above 11th place. Tenth-place Wisconsin is 3-7. Iowa and Minnesota are 3-8.

Hey, you need help to make a miracle happen. No Big Ten team has ever won five games in five days at a league tournament. But Michigan won four in four days last year to cut the nets, and Iowa did likewise in 2001.

So, yes, the operative word in Iowa’s case this year would be “miracle.” But it’s fun to pretend. On a more-realistic level, you saw things from the Hawkeyes Tuesday that made you believe Iowa basketball doesn’t have to be a pit of despair the rest of the season.

“They’re a very good offensive team,” Pitino said. “If they ever figure it out defensively or they all get connected ... I know Coach (Fran) McCaffery will get them there. They’re still a young team. It may be tough to see.

“The bulk of their team is young, so they’re going to be really good down the road.”

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McCaffery knows his guys can yo-yo right back to mediocrity Saturday at Penn State. But it’s a winnable game if his guys are focused.

“OK, we were better tonight than we were on Saturday (a 98-84 loss at Nebraska),” McCaffery said. “That’s obvious, all right. So that means we had some maturity.

“Now we have to play a team who beat us already, who is playing well, is really talented, and really tough to play in their place. Let’s see if we can do that on the road. That would be a big step for us to play better than we’ve been playing before on the road against a really good team. Then dissect that game, and then move forward from there.”

It was a win Tuesday. Wins are good news. Good news is the best kind.

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