IOWA CITY — The game was over early, but the learning never stopped Sunday for the Iowa basketball team.
That may be the best thing Jordan Bohannon and the Hawkeyes take from a 95-67 rout of Texas-Rio Grande Valley at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a chance to gain experience and grow as players as Iowa works toward tougher challenges in the days and months ahead.
Bohannon bounced back from a rough-around-the-edges performance against Seton Hall on Thursday to dish out six assists and gain 24 minutes of experience against the Vaqueros.
“All you can do is try to learn from games like that and the only way to learn is to play,’’ the Hawkeyes’ freshman point guard said. “Getting 24 minutes, that was a huge thing for me. It’s experience that will help me in the long run.’’
It was that kind of day for the Hawkeyes.
No player was on the court for more than 24 minutes and 11 Iowa players recorded at least 10 minutes of playing time.
Coach Fran McCaffery was looking for growth and he was looking to learn about his team as well.
Peter Jok provided McCaffery with the opportunity to sample it all, opening the game with a pair of 3-point baskets that sent Iowa on its way to an early 20-5 advantage and sent the senior on his way to a 27-point performance on 9-of-13 shooting in just 19 minutes of playing time.
But, when McCaffery put the game in the hands of Hawkeye reserves things changed.
Winless Texas-Rio Grande Valley cut the Iowa lead to 25-17 with just under eight minutes remaining in the first half and the Iowa coach turned up the volume during an animated timeout discussion with his players.
Sacrificing a clipboard in the process, the Hawkeyes took the hint.
They closed out the half with a renewed focus on working the ball inside and took a 46-33 lead into the locker room at the break, when McCaffery challenged his team again.
“We haven’t started the second half well this season, we’ve won a couple of games, but we really haven’t come out after halftime the way we want,’’ he said. “I thought our intensity level, attention to detail at that juncture of the game was as good as it’s been. You want to go from 13 to 30 as opposed to from 13 to four.’’
Iowa opened the second half with a 13-2 run and when Brady Ellingson buried one of the Hawkeyes’ 11 three-pointers in the game, he extended the Iowa edge to 70-40 with 12 minutes, 44 seconds remaining.
“That’s something we’ve been struggling with, having good starts after our first half,’’ said Nicholas Baer, who led Iowa with eight rebounds. “I was proud that we pushed the lead from 13 to 30 at one point. I was impressed with that progress, because I think that’s a mental thing, just coming out aggressive after a break.’’
It’s all part of the growth process for a young team.
Roles for many players have changed, leading to an adjustment period that the Hawkeyes are working through.
“Coming in from high school, I was the go-to guy and I was counted on to be a scorer,’’ Bohannon said. “Here, Pete and Tyler (Cook) are those guys and I have to work to get the ball to them and to get the ball to the guys down low. I’m still figuring it all out, just getting started.’’
McCaffery likes Bohannon’s understanding of the need for an inside/outside approach.
“We have a lot of three-point shooters and we’ve become a little three happy at times so we have to be careful,’’ McCaffery said. “He does a good job of getting the ball in there. His shot was off (1-for-7), he pulled a couple of quick ones, but he’ll get that figured out. He’s young.’’