Hawkeyes show improvement from last season in close wins

After a rough season in 2017-18, Iowa is staying the course now, and it’s working.


David Harmantas

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon #3 pushes the ball up court during a basketball game against Michigan State on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. The Spartans defeated the Hawkeyes 82-67.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

Jordan Bohannon has shown a knack for hitting clutch shots in each of Iowa’s past two games, and the Hawkeyes have displayed their ability to fight and claw their way to the finish line in tight games.

But while Iowa rides one of its most impressive waves of the 2018-19 season, let’s rewind to 2017-18.

That’s right. The season in which the Hawkeyes finished just 14-19, with a 4-14 mark in Big Ten play. At this point last year, Iowa had just three wins in the Big Ten, and it picked up only one more by the season’s end.

Fast forward to this season, and the Hawkeyes are 19-5 (8-5 Big Ten). They have doubled their conference wins and have a national ranking at No. 21 in the most recent AP Poll.

But looking at last season’s team, this never would have been possible. Iowa would not have made a 15-point comeback in under five minutes against Northwestern. The Hawkeyes would not have been able to hold off Indiana on the road. A win over No. 5 Michigan in Carver-Hawkeye? Yeah, right.

This team is different, though.

“I think just what we’ve been through the last couple years wasn’t fun,” Bohannon said. “My freshman year, we had a lot of expectation put on us and put on ourselves. We didn’t live up to that our next year, and that was really frustrating for us. For us just to fold over this year, we didn’t want to do that because of everything that we’ve been through.”

Lily Smith
Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon attempts a layup during the Iowa/Northwestern men’s basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, February 10, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 80-79.

If anyone knows about bouncing back, it’s Bohannon, who has a special skill of heating up quickly at the end of game.

In Sunday’s comeback win over the Wildcats, Bohannon got off to a slow start, then scored all 15 of his points in the final 5:30, including 11 in the last 2:48.

At Assembly Hall on Feb. 7 — just three days earlier — Bohannon dropped 11 in the final 1:29 and 8 in the last 43 seconds to put the dagger into the Hoosiers. 

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“He’s having an amazing year in that respect,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said. “He’s fearless. That’s why you have to have him on the floor.”

The Hawkeyes were extremely susceptible to runs by opposing teams last season. Once a team started running up the score and extending its lead, Iowa couldn’t find a way to stop it.

Now, it seems as if Iowa is the team that other squads are trying to stop in the final minutes. Most Hawkeye fans are probably used to having these things happen to Iowa, not for Iowa.

Freshman forward Joe Wieskamp said on Sunday that games such as the win over Northwestern will help the Hawkeyes come March, and he’s not wrong. When the tournament season comes around, Iowa must find ways to grind out gritty wins.

But that’s nothing new for the Hawkeyes now. After a mess of a season last year, Iowa has clearly turned its fortunes around.

“It’s our maturity,” forward Tyler Cook said. “A lot of teams, including us last year, we would’ve kind of mailed it in, especially when some fans started leaving with four minutes left and we were down 15. We just stayed the course like [McCaffery] always says.”

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