By John Bohnenkamp
Joe Wieskamp jokingly thought Sunday’s game against Minnesota was about him getting some conditioning work in, the way Iowa was running the court.
“That’s just how we play,” the junior forward said. “How we want to play.”
There is a hum to Iowa’s offense right now, and it showed in the 86-71 win over the Gophers.
The Hawkeyes had 27 assists on 31 field goals, and committed just 10 turnovers. They had 22 assists against 11 turnovers in Thursday’s 89-67 win over Maryland.
Iowa leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.11), assists per game (21.3) and assists (277). Connor McCaffery is fifth in assist-to-turnover ration (5.18) and Jordan Bohannon is 26th (3.2) — the two rank 1-2 in the category in the Big Ten.
McCaffery had 10 assists without a turnover against Maryland. Bohannon had 14 assists without a turnover against Minnesota.
It’s an efficiency that comes from experience. The Hawkeyes have seven players with starting experience, and the eight returning players from last season have combined for more than 11,000 minutes of playing time.
“It’s definitely not a surprise,” Bohannon said after Sunday’s game. “We knew we have a lot of experienced guys this year. With me, Connor, CJ (Fredrick), (Wieskamp), Luka (Garza) having the ball a lot, and Joe (Toussaint) coming in, there are a lot of guys who are really smart on this team, a high basketball IQ. For us to have that kind of assist-to-turnover line, it shows the experience we have. We know where we need to be on the court, and we’re helping guys around us, and holding everyone accountable. Everything factors into that.”
“Every one of our guards is unselfish,” Garza said. “They know they might be open, but that there’s a better shot there.”
The Hawkeyes want to be a team constantly in transition on the court. That kind of tempo plays into their hands because of the experience, and it also keeps teams from getting set defensively in their attempts to slow Garza, a 6-foot-11 center who leads the nation in scoring at 27.6 points per game.
“We always talk about we’re a team that likes to move the ball, share the ball,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “But it starts with the guy bringing it down, and getting that thing moving, throwing it ahead, throw it inside, and then keep doing it.”
Garza had 33 points on Sunday, and Bohannon estimated the majority of assists went to him for layups.
“(Bohannon) was finding me in the right spots,” Garza said. “It helps me. It takes a lot of the double-teams away, because they can’t double-team me in transition. When we’re pushing it that fast, it’s hard for them to adjust. So I just tried to run as hard as I could, and J-Bo was finding me. It’s awesome to play on a team like this with that many unselfish guys.”
“He did a good job of finding Luka,” Wieskamp said of Bohannon. “Luka was outrunning (Minnesota center Liam) Robbins every possession. Jordan really set the tone tonight.”
It’s an effective tone that Bohannon is used to setting. A fifth-year senior, Bohannon’s previous high in assists was 13 in an NIT game against TCU in 2017. He has a team-high 64 assists this season, and his career total of 568 ranks him third all-time in program history, just eight away from moving into second place.
“I thought his decisions — when to shoot, when to drive, when to move it, when to throw it into the post — I mean, it was just practically perfect,” Fran McCaffery said of Bohannon’s play on Sunday.
Bohannon was two off of tying the school record of 16 set by Cal Wulfsberg in 1976.
“If Luka keeps making his layups, I’m definitely going to get there someday,” Bohannon said, smiling. “He better keep shooting it when I pass it to him, that’s all I can say.”
But Garza is also good at kicking the ball out. He had an assist on Bohannon’s 3-pointer early in the first half that put Iowa up 9-6, and had another assist on a Bohannon 3 76 seconds into the second half that gave the Hawkeyes a 42-39 lead.
“Try to make them pay when they do, and make them scared to do a double-team,” Garza said. “It’s been something I’ve been trying to do, trying to find other people. And score when I’m in a position to go up quick.”
It is an impressive efficiency.
“We’ve got a lot of guys in here who are unselfish and want to win,” Garza said.
Photo: Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon celebrates a 3-pointer in Sunday’s win over Minnesota. (Stephen Mally/hawkeyesports.com)