SPORTS

Iowa point guards still growing as Hawkeyes head to Florida

Hawkeyes' floor generals have a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover this season, but eye more improvement at Emerald Coast Classic

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon (3) brings the ball down court in the first half at Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Frid
Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon (3) brings the ball down court in the first half at Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday, November 11, 2016.
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IOWA CITY — There’s a lot expected of Christian Williams and Jordan Bohannon.

Four games into the 2016-17 season, the Hawkeyes’ pair of point guards have now played a combined 28 games as college players. They fill a two-player hole in Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons, who left Iowa having played a combined 271 games as Hawkeyes.

Williams and Bohannon have to know every role on the floor; where guys are supposed to be at all times. They touch the ball nearly every possession they’re on the floor.

A high-caliber opponent in Seton Hall exposed a few of those growing pains that were to be expected. But overall, Coach Fran McCaffery likes what he’s seen.

“I think they’ve been good. I think they both can be better and they know that,” McCaffery said. “They’re getting us into our offense, they’re pushing the ball up the floor. They’re battling defensively. Both of them have decent numbers in terms of assist-turnovers. They’re scoring the ball a little bit. I think they both can score a little bit better. I think we’ll see that. I’ve been pleased with both of them.”

The assist-to-turnover ratio seems to be the primary barometer for point guards, and it’s certainly a key factor McCaffery looks at when assessing where they’re at.

Williams has started all four games and has 17 total assists (4.3 per game) and six total turnovers (1.5 per game), while averaging 2.8 points and three rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game. Bohannon hasn’t started, but has played extended minutes — more than Williams, in fact, at 21.3 minutes per game. He has 19 total assists (4.8 per game) and eight turnovers (two per game), with five points and one rebound per game.

Both are ranked in the top 200 in assist rate (assists divided by field goals made by teammates while he’s on the court) according to KenPom.com. Bohannon’s 29.2 puts him 157th of 2,225 eligible players, while Williams’ 28.2 has him 178th.

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Three of Iowa’s four opponents have offered tests in the way that both players had a chance at extended minutes to focus on themselves and what they want to do. The Seton Hall game, though, forced both into stretches where they turned the ball over. Bohannon specifically had a rough “2-3 minute stretch” where he tried things that might’ve worked at Linn-Mar, but definitely not against a Big East opponent.

“(It was) just dumb decisions with the ball. I think Seton Hall got up into us,” Bohannon said after Iowa beat UT-Rio Grande Valley. “I had that 2-3 minute stretch where I had some questionable passes. I could’ve just moved it on and lived with the possession.

“(Coaches) just reminded me I’m only a freshman. I’m playing 20 minutes as a freshman. There’s going to be mistakes that happen. It’s not that moment that should define you; it’s how you bounce back from adversity — especially how you apply it to the next game.”

According to KenPom.com, Williams and Bohannon have a 98.6 and 94.8 offensive rating (player efficiency on offense) respectively, both of which are in the bottom half of players nationally. Comparatively, Nicholas Baer tops the Hawkeyes in ORtg at 137.8, good for No. 98 of all players in the country.

Bohannon said he has to “evolve” to a mentality where he’s not the primary scoring option, as he was at Linn-Mar. His shot selection was self-described as “a high school mentality” in the last few games, and it’s something on which the coaches are working with him.

As for Williams, he’s only taken 13 shots in four games, instead working far more as a distributor than anything. He said before the season that was his strength, but McCaffery anticipates his offensive production increasing as the season goes on.

Iowa heads to the Emerald Coast Classic this week, and gets defensive juggernaut Virginia to start things off. The No. 6 Cavaliers have a point guard in London Perrantes who McCaffery said plays with great pace, is versatile, can drive the ball, passes well and “plays with a presence that is very confident.”

Virginia offers a step up even from Seton Hall in caliber of opponent, and what the point guards especially will face.

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“I think you’ll see (Williams) shoot the ball a lot more moving forward. I really do,” McCaffery said. “(Bohannon) does a really good job of trying to get the ball inside, and understanding that we have to have an inside/outside game. … He pulled a couple quick ones (against UTRGV), and maybe should have driven it and drawn the defense, and relied on his creativity a little bit more. But he’ll get that figured out. He’s young.

“We have to be more consistent at both ends. I think we have to play with great energy. Our execution has to improve. All of it has been pretty good. It has been. I think that’s fairly common for young teams, but it has to get better to beat teams of this caliber.”

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

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