Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa men's basketball: Hawkeyes' inside-out game turning defenses inside-out

Iowa mixing lots of 3's with 2's to get W's

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon (3) celebrates after hitting one of the six 3-pointers he made in the Hawkeyes' 87-72 win ove
Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon (3) celebrates after hitting one of the six 3-pointers he made in the Hawkeyes’ 87-72 win over Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena last Dec. 29. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Math at its simplest: A 3-point shot in basketball is worth more than a 2-point shot.

The hard part is making a considerable percentage of the 3s. If you can do that? Oh, the places you’ll go. Entering this weekend (for all the statistics that follow here), Drake’s men’s team was No. 1 in the nation in 3-point shooting at 43 percent. The Bulldogs are 13-0.

Then there’s the 11-2, fifth-ranked Iowa men. They have made 39.3 percent of their treys. If that pace holds, it would top their highest season percentage since 1997-98.

Back then, they and about everyone else shot just two-thirds of the 3s that teams do now. Iowa’s 1987-88 team made 41.5 percent of its 3-pointers, but attempted only 13.2 per game. This season’s Hawkeyes are shooting twice that many.

If Iowa gets 11 threes Sunday at Northwestern — it’s averaging a league-best 10.3 in Big Ten games — it will match the total the famed 1986-87 Hawkeyes made in their 30-5 season.

Entering Saturday’s games, Creighton was the only major-conference team making more 3s per game than Iowa. Whether you like the heavy reliance of 3-pointers in your basketball or not, that’s the way the game is now played and it’s working for the Hawkeyes.

“I think the more 3-point weapons your team has, the harder you’re going to be to guard, provided the group of individuals are unselfish and team-oriented,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said last week.

“When you have the best low post player (Luka Garza) in college basketball, you want to throw it inside, you want to get him the ball. But he’s equally effective at the 3-point line, which creates opportunities for others to flash into the low post and post up or drive the ball into a space that wouldn’t be there if Luka was always there.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Garza is 6-foot-11, and 265 pounds. Players of his size never used to shoot from deep. He has made 48.9 percent of his 3-pointers (22-of-45).

Guard CJ Fredrick has made 51.1 percent of his. Joe Wieskamp is at 40.7 percent, an improvement of over 5 percent from last season.

But the difference-maker in Iowa’s 4-game winning streak has been senior guard Jordan Bohannon, who arguably is on the best heater of his career.

Bohannon was in a shooting funk over the first nine games this season, hitting just 17 of 61 threes for 27.9 percent. That ice has broken and floated away. Bohannon has made 19 of 30 3-pointers over the last four contests, a 63.3 percent clip.

He has been living up to his uniform number, 3.

His prolific shooting has made opposing defenses not knowing quite what to do when Iowa also has Garza getting most of his nation-leading 27.6 points per game in the paint.

If Iowa didn’t have such an inside threat, the 3-point guys would get hounded more tightly by defenders. If the Hawkeyes didn’t have the shooters, Garza would see nothing but the double-teams he’s gotten accustomed to getting in Big Ten play, and perhaps some triple-teams.

Players like Stephen Curry and James Harden have increased NBA teams’ use of the home run ball, and NBA teams who don’t live by the 3 die from it. That has trickled down to the college game.

Again with the simple math: If you make 35 percent of your 3-pointers, that’s worth the same as 52.5 of 2-pointers. No team in the country shot better than 52.5 percent from the field last season, but 92 made at least 35 percent of their 3-pointers.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“I think moving forward, most coaches are going to try to recruit as many 3-point shooters as possible,” McCaffery said. “When you think about the return on investment per possession, it makes a lot of sense.

“Shooting threes, provided they’re open shots and you’ve moved it and you’ve made the defense work and you don’t constantly settle — because if you do that you’re never going to be in the bonus — so there’s got to be a mixture there. But having multiple weapons and not having the other team be able to focus on one or two guys is really helpful.”

It’s simple math.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.