IOWA CITY — If all you ever looked at was social media, you might think Jordan Bohannon is falling victim to the proverbial sophomore jinx.
After making the Big Ten’s all-freshman team a year ago, Iowa’s point guard occasionally has been the subject of criticism from impassioned, impatient Hawkeye fans.
The numbers tell a different story. Bohannon has improved in pretty much every statistical category over a year ago.
Team-wise, the Hawkeyes have been among the Big Ten’s most glaring disappointments. Their defense, with the exception of a game or two here and there, has been disturbingly dysfunctional. They’ve developed a proclivity for falling behind by wide margins in the first half. Several players have been wildly inconsistent.
But it’s tough to pin much — if any — of the blame on their sophomore point guard.
If anything, he seems to be getting better. His statistical numbers have spiked in the past few weeks, in part because he almost never leaves the court. He has averaged 37.8 minutes per game in the past five outings.
“I think he's been great all year,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Monday as he prepared his team for an 8 p.m. game today against a Minnesota team that is struggling as much as his own club. “I tried not to overuse him early in the season, and his assist-turnover numbers, his 3-point numbers, he's been great.
“I didn't take him out the other night (in a 98-84 loss to Nebraska). That's why the spike in numbers a little bit. If you leave him out there, he's going to score. He's going to make plays. That's what he does.’’
Bohannon’s season scoring average is up from 10.9 to 13.7 (15.7 in Big Ten play). His shooting percentages are up across the board.
His assist-per-game average is almost identical to a year ago — 5.17, compared to 5.14 last season — and his assist-to-turnover ratio is up slightly, from 2.3 to 2.5.
“It's amazing because you can tell that teams have marked him, and they're trying not to let him do that,’’ McCaffery said. “The thing that's impressed me, he's got the green light, but he doesn't really hunt shots. He's not selfish at all. He waits and lets it come to him. He moves it. Seven assists, no turns the other night.
“To me that was as impressive as the six threes he made because they came after him, and I never gave him a rest, and they rotated three guys on him in both halves, and it didn't seem to bother him. It says a lot about how tough he is.’’
Bohannon admitted it has taken him some time this season to adjust to being a focal point of opposing defenses. Last season, teams ganged up on Peter Jok.
Now they’ve turned up the pressure on him.
“Obviously any time you’ve got guys guarding you 95 feet from the basket or face-guarding you at halfcourt … I’ve been dealing with it my entire life. What’s different now is it’s bigger, more athletic guys,’’ he said.
“It’s something I’ve been working on in the off-season, knowing they were going to throw some different defenses at me,’’ he added.
Bohannon also has made a concerted effort to be more than just a 3-point gunner. He is penetrating more often and putting up shots 10 or 12 feet from the hoop.
He’s still second in the Big Ten in 3-point field goals, but he already has more 2-point field goals than he did all of last season and he is drawing more fouls. He has made as many free throws as he attempted last season and has made his last 26 foul shots in a row. He could be a week or two away from breaking Chris Street’s school record of 34 straight.
“Obviously, runners and floaters are something I’ve worked on a lot in the off-season,’’ he said. “I knew I was going to be able to get some open looks that way because they’re going to be flying at me at the 3-point line. I’ve been able to get in the paint a little bit more and you can see that with my 2-point numbers and my free throw numbers as well.’’
Defensive doldrums: After Saturday’s loss to Nebraska, Iowa is down to 236th in the nation in the defensive efficiency numbers compiled by analytics guru Ken Pomeroy. That’s the lowest of any power-five conference team.
“It’s not a lack of effort,’’ forward Nicholas Baer said. “I think we’re really playing hard and trying hard. It’s just a matter of understanding a few defensive concepts.’’
By the way, the Hawkeyes are 39th in the country in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.
Missing Reggie: The Minnesota team the Hawkeyes face tonight has pretty much paralleled Iowa over the past couple of months.
Both teams finished December with a five-game non-conference winning streak but have gone just 2-6 since the resumption of Big Ten play in January.
There would seem to be an obvious reason for the Golden Gophers’ recent slump. They have played the last seven games without senior center Reggie Lynch, who was averaging 10.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.1 blocked shots per game. They’ve gone 1-6 in those games.
Lynch has been suspended indefinitely as a result of sexual assault allegations.
Kriener may return: McCaffery said it’s possible sophomore center Ryan Kriener, who has missed the past three games with a concussion, could return to action tonight.
However, he said junior guard Brady Ellingson is likely to sit out his third consecutive game, also while undergoing concussion protocol.