IOWA CITY — Between ninth-year head coach Fran McCaffery and 2019 Iowa 4-star recruit Patrick McCaffery is a redshirt freshman point guard named McCaffery.
Connor McCaffery, Fran’s son and Patrick’s brother, has come from a hellish personal first year of college to immediately brand himself a cog in Iowa’s rotation this season. He played more point guard than incumbent Jordan Bohannon down the stretch Sunday in the 2-0 Hawkeyes’ 93-82 win over Green Bay at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“He does a great job,” said sophomore forward Luka Garza. “It’s been that way since we first got in camp. He’s just really good at feeding the post. He knows where I like to get it.”
Big men Garza and Tyler Cook had 17 points apiece for Iowa. Both got set up by McCaffery for baskets or fouls that led to free throws. Cook had 11 foul shots, making nine. The Hawkeyes had 45, making 34.
“Keep attacking the post,” Connor McCaffery said. “I wanted to keep feeding the post.”
He played a career-high 25 minutes, had a career-high 11 points, and his plus-14 (points Iowa scored as opposed to Green Bay’s while he was on the court) was second only to forward Nicholas Baer’s plus-19.
Bohannon wasn’t absent during the run in the last six minutes in which Iowa went from ahead by just 74-70 to finally pulling away from the Phoenix (1-2). In fact, he made six of his 13 points in that time, mostly playing off the ball.
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“It’s a little better than having to bring the ball up the entire game,” Bohannon said. “When Connor got tired, I brought it up. We just worked pretty well together.”
“I think it’s a great combination,” McCaffery said. “We both handled the ball. He made shots. I look for him. It’s good to have two guards on the floor that really handle the ball, no overdoing it all the time. I love playing with him.”
Last year McCaffery had an ankle injury, mononucleosis, severe strep throat, and finally, a late-December tonsillectomy. He played in just four games, and was granted a medical redshirt by the Big Ten last March.
Iowa needed him Sunday. Green Bay led 20-12 seven minutes into the game. The thing that kept Iowa from staying behind was the fouls it drew, primarily out of aggressive offense. The Phoenix had 17 fouls at halftime to Iowa’s seven.
Cook, who sat out over half the first 20 minutes largely because he picked up two fouls, had 14 second-half points.
It was a nine-player rotation. Six scored in double figures. Junior forward Cordell Pemsl was held out after hurting himself in a fall at practice, and was said to be day-to-day.
Only six different players were used down the stretch. One, senior forward Baer, had 12 points. It was his highest total since the last game of his sophomore season.
“He was phenomenal both ways,” said Fran McCaffery.
Iowa plays Thursday and Friday in the 2K Classic at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Thursday’s opponent is 16th-ranked Oregon (2-0).
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