By John Bohnenkamp
Iowa guard Connor McCaffery won’t be available for Thursday’s game at Ohio State.
Coach Fran McCaffery, Connor’s father, has plenty of options to fill the 15.7 minutes per game Connor has been averaging this season.
It’s finding the experience to put on the court that will be the hard part.
Connor, a fifth-year senior, was a mainstay in the late-game lineups for the Hawkeyes because of his experience and the fact that he has been one of the best players in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Now, with Connor out because of a deep shoulder bruise that knocked him out of the final minutes of Monday’s 90-86 double-overtime loss against Penn State, Fran McCaffery has to look for different players to fill that role.
He could go with more minutes for guard Tony Perkins and forward Kris Murray, both sophomores. Or it could mean more time for freshman Payton Sandfort.
Connor McCaffery’s first-half role usually was with the second unit in the Hawkeyes’ rotation that included Perkins, Murray and sophomore guard Ahron Ulis.
“That’s where he’s missed,” Fran McCaffery said. “He’s been really good with Payton, with Tony, with Ahron. with Kris. Those guys are inexperienced, but they’re getting better. They’re smart, they’re tough. They’re good players. So some of the younger guys are gonna have to step up.”
Connor McCaffery had 12 points in the game against Penn State before he was injured. Fran McCaffery originally thought it might have been a shoulder separation.
“It wasn’t his shoulder, it’s something else, so he’s feeling a lot better today,” Fran McCaffery said. “He wasn’t very good yesterday. I guess you would say he’s day-to-day. But you know, he’s still got quite a bit of pain in that arm so probably doesn’t look good for tomorrow. You know, maybe Sunday (for Iowa’s home game against Minnesota) hopefully, but maybe not until the game after that.”
It’s been an injury-filled year for Connor. He had offseason surgeries on both hips, and then complained of back pain during the first two months of the season.
He is averaging just 1.7 points per game, with 34 points in 313 minutes this season. He has 35 assists against seven turnovers.
Connor’s leadership, Fran McCaffery said, will be missed on the court.
“At least he’ll still be there,” Fran said. “He does a really good job, as you know, talking to the guys, whether it be a practice or on the bench. They respect him and trust him. That manifests itself in a lot of ways. You’re on the road, you’re playing a team the caliber of Ohio State. You want the kind of guys that have been there before.
But also, we run a variety of things. And it takes a while to really know and understand not only what we’re running, why we’re running and how we run it, and what your options are, if they do this and what your options are. That’s where the experience comes in.”
Photo: Iowa will be without guard Connor McCaffery in Thursday’s game at Ohio State. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)