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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It’s often been said that who finishes games are more important than who starts them.
It’s true. Iowa will start who it starts Thursday night at Maryland when it tries to return to the .500 mark in the Big Ten men’s basketball standings. The finishers will be whomever Hawkeyes Coach Fran McCaffery thinks is playing the best against the Terrapins.
The last two games, that’s been sophomore Ahron Ulis at point guard. Ulis played both overtimes in the loss at Penn State on Jan. 31, and was in the game down the stretch in Iowa’s 71-59 home win over Minnesota Sunday.
Ulis has yet to start a game.
Sunday, senior Jordan Bohannon was shifted to point guard and started there for the first time this season after junior Joe Toussaint was taken out of the starting lineup for the first time this season.
Bohannon had entered the game in a woeful shooting slump, making 14 of 54 shots from the field over his previous six games.
“(McCaffery) called me a couple days before the Ohio State game (scheduled for Feb. 3, but postponed) and said what he was planning to do,” Bohannon said. “I simply responded ‘I just want to win, so whatever you think … I’m right there with you.’ ”
Bohannon made his first two 3-pointers against Minnesota.
“For some reason I’ve had a hard time getting rhythm at the 2-guard the last couple games,” Bohannon said. “Point guard’s really a place where I’ve been at in the last five or six years here at Iowa.”
Bohannon finished 2-of-7, so the slump wasn’t erased by the change. And Toussaint, who played a season-low six minutes against the Gophers, could factor mightily against Maryland.
“The last time we played Maryland,” Iowa assistant coach Billy Taylor said Tuesday, “Joe Toussaint had nine points, nine assists — really impactful in that game and was guarding Fatts (Russell), a tough assignment. He did a good job for us.
“Fatts, his speed is just a game-changer because you just don't see that elite-level speed very often. So it's just hard to game plan for that kind of athleticism and speed.”
Toussaint’s attitude on the sideline Sunday looked to be extremely upbeat.
“He's going to have moments where he's going to play extremely well for us,” Taylor said. “Just like Ahron Ulis stepped up, we'll need different guys to step up. It's a unique roster, unique team that we have a lot of different guys that can play and can impact the game for us.”
Maryland gave Iowa all the game it wanted on Jan. 3 in Iowa City before the Hawkeyes prevailed, 80-75. The Terrapins are 3-9 in the Big Ten, losers of their last three games.
At 11-12, this is the first time Maryland has been under .500 more than six games into a season since the 1992-93 season. Head coach Mark Turgeon stepped down eight games into the season, and the team hasn’t prospered under interim head coach Danny Manning.
Yet, it’s a road game out East. Based on Iowa’s recent results, it would be foolish to take the Terps lightly. Especially given how the Hawkeyes performed at Penn State last week. And at Rutgers on Jan. 19.
“I think right now we’re going to start playing (some) of our best basketball of the year,” Bohannon said.
Stacking wins has been and remains the surest path to an NCAA tournament berth, so it behooves the Hawkeyes to prove Bohannon correct.
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