Iowa hoops: Making the Grade, Big Ten Week 9

Hawkeyes got big time performances from freshmen Jordan Bohannon and Tyler Cook to spur a solid week

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It’s fairly absurd, the idea of going 8 of 10 from 3-point range in a college basketball game — well, at least for most people. Jordan Bohannon’s individual performance at Maryland on Saturday was an individual representation of what the Iowa men’s basketball team did as a whole — not the least of which was it got people talking about him and the Hawkeyes in a good way.

Each week of the season, we’ll break down the Hawkeyes’ offensive and defensive performance and give them grades, as we’ll as highlight each player who contributed significantly and his individual performance. This week’s Iowa Hoops: Making the Grade highlights Games 27, 28 and 29 against Illinois, Indiana and Maryland.

Schedule/Results

Iowa vs. Illinois, L, 70-66

Iowa vs. Indiana, W, 96-90 OT

Iowa at Maryland, W, 83-69

Offense

A-Why: What Bohannon did individually against Maryland was part of a larger offensive effort that was impressively efficient — and started in the second half of the Indiana game and carried over. Ball movement has been the primary motivator for the Hawkeyes’ offense, and while a few of their 3-pointers (16 of 26 as a team) were off the dribble, it was working their motion and a few sets that got guys open.

Another aspect, and it was true in all of the last three games, was how effective Tyler Cook was, in particular, in the post. When teams are having success in the paint — whether by post entry pass or dribble penetration — defenses naturally sag in to protect. That leaves the outside open (keep this in mind).

Iowa got effective, efficient post play in the last three games, and Cook certainly was the leader there. The Hawkeyes made a concerted effort in all three games to get the ball inside and work inside out in many ways — and it paid off early against Illinois (fading when Cook was in foul trouble), late against Indiana (with Pemsl, Kriener and Wagner each having important moments) and throughout the Maryland game. This week’s grade is more for the sum than the parts.

Defense

BWhy: Iowa faced talented backcourts in each of its last three games, each with speed and quickness to get to the rim while also having capable shooters. That’s been what the Hawkeyes have struggled with most in opposing offenses this year, and that was true again in multiple moments against Illinois, Indiana and Maryland.

While Iowa forced turnovers at tremendous rates — Illinois committed 17, Indiana 22 and Maryland 14 — over the last three, it was feast or famine the majority of those games. Maryland and Indiana in particular got to the rim with their guards at first, and Indiana a bit with their frontcourt. When Iowa sagged in, both teams pulled the trigger.

What made the difference in the two wins ended up being rim protection and those forced turnovers at the right time. Overtime against Indiana was a block party for Kriener. Maryland was for Cook. Fortunately for Iowa it’s more feast than famine right now.

Players (in last three games)

 

* To view more data, click here.

Peter Jok, guard — It’s that time of year where All-Big Ten selections start being considered and the last three games have reminded everyone why he’s so valuable to the Hawkeyes and why he should be a no-doubter for first team All-Big Ten. His 20.7 points per game over the last three is one thing, but he did it shooting 43.3 percent overall, had a 53.3 effective field goal percentage, led the team in rebounding over that stretch and, oh by the way, set a record for free throws made at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Tyler Cook, forward — As colleague Mike Hlas wrote on Monday, Cook played this week like the tremendous expectations placed on him before the season predicted he would. He was effective finishing around the rim, rebounded better than he has all season, got to the line and made nearly 71 percent of his free throws and defended better — all while playing more minutes. His ability has always been there, it was just about putting it together. His 21 points and 10 rebounds at Maryland is what one could very easily call putting it together.

Jordan Bohannon, guard — His shooting performance at Maryland will be remembered for a long time. Not only because it was a big factor in why the Hawkeyes got just their second road win of the season, but also because he was shooting from Washington, D.C., on a few of them, it seemed like. And he fully buried his shooting slump from two weeks ago, too. He was 12 of 18 over the last three games from beyond the arc. He also had 13 assists to 7 turnovers in the three games, and considering the backcourts from Indiana and Maryland, that’s a solid ratio.

Nicholas Baer, guard — His tip-slam against Indiana was a sight to see, if only because after he got up off the floor when the foul was called, he had this crazed look in his eyes and ran to the bench to celebrate like it was the best play he’d ever made. To be fair, if any one of us got a tip-slam and-1, we’d probably all react the same way. Seriously though, he continues to do the dirty work on both ends and still might be the most consistent rebounder Iowa has.

Cordell Pemsl, forward — His numbers and minutes were down a bit this week, but that has way more to do with Tyler Cook’s surge in effectiveness than a lack of it from Pemsl. His placement on the floor has improved a lot over the course of the Big Ten season, and while he still catches himself in bad spots for fouls occasionally, it seems less often now. He doesn’t have to be a scorer, necessarily, to be impactful on the floor, and this week was an example.

Christian Williams, guard — Once again, it seems like Williams is peaking at the end of the season. Also, he’d probably enjoy it if Iowa only ever played Indiana, given his two best games as a Hawkeye have come against the Hoosiers. He still has improvements to make offensively, but in the Indiana game in particular he was more aggressive than at any other time before, or in the game after. That’s the kind of play that will put him on the floor at the 2 spot with Bohannon.

Brady Ellingson, guard — As was written heading into the Maryland game, the backcourt has had much the same dilemma as the frontcourt in terms of rotation, just with less focus because there are fewer players to go around. Still, Ellingson is in one of his quieter phases, where he primarily redistributes the ball and waits for an open look. He’s stayed ready, though, which is important.

Ahmad Wagner, forward — Speaking of quieter weeks, the last three games have been as much for Wagner — at least numbers-wise. The work he’s done defensively has improved, though. He’s better on the baseline in zone and has been judicious about contesting shots without fouling when in man-to-man. And hey, to give the guy some props after criticizing him: he was 2 for 2 at the free throw line in a single trip against Illinois.

Ryan Kriener, forward — His minutes have been impacted the most in the last three games — playing four against Illinois and two against Maryland — but the 18 he had in overtime against Indiana were crucial. He may only have had four points in that game but it was the three blocks in overtime that provided the defensive stops the Hawkeyes didn’t get in other overtime losses this year.

Isaiah Moss, guard — The story on guards and the rotation dilemma surrounding them was spurred most by this guy. His statistical production and minutes-played this week read a lot like a heartbeat monitor. He played 17 minutes against Illinois, then five against Indiana while Fran McCaffery rolled with a hot lineup, then was back to 16 minutes at Maryland. His staying engaged while dealing with uneven playing time is one of the most important pieces for Iowa’s backcourt going forward.

Dom Uhl, forward — Not having scored makes the last three-game stretch look a little harsher than what his performance revealed. He rebounded pretty well in the minutes he got to play, and like Pemsl, his positioning was solid in all the variations of the Hawkeyes’ defense.

Upcoming Games

Iowa at Wisconsin, 8 p.m. March 2 at Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. (ESPN)

Iowa vs. Penn State, 12:01 p.m., March 5 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (BTN)

Previous weeks: Games 1-2Games 3-4Games 5-7Games 8-10Games 11-13Games 14-15Games 16-17Games 18-19Games 20-22Games 23-24Games 25-26

*Full disclosure on grades: First things first, that’s by subjective view after covering and re-watching games. Second, grades are an aggregate of the week, based on an 11-point scale. A is worth 11, A- 10, and so on through F, which is 0. Offense and defense are given a grade for each game and then averaged for the week.

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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