IOWA CITY — It took Jordan Bohannon nearly 20 minutes to get his first points Sunday.
As the final ticks ran off the clock in the first half, Iowa’s junior guard raced down and launched a lunging 23-foot shot that banked through the hoop as the halftime horn sounded.
That was all he needed to see. The floodgates swung wide open.
Bohannon, who frequently has struggled with his shooting this season, scored 22 more points in the second half, including several dagger-like 3-pointers, as the Hawkeyes finally found their way into the win column in the Big Ten with a 93-84 victory over Nebraska at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It’s nice to see one of those shots go in, especially with the kind of season I’ve had shooting,’’ Bohannon said.
"It’s hard to get your first Big Ten win,’’ he added, “especially against a team like Nebraska.''
Bohannon’s 25 points were a season high but his breakout day and a tension-relieving conference victory weren’t the only welcome sights for the Hawkeyes.
Luka Garza, who has missed the past three games with a sprained ankle, returned to action and contributed eight points in 10 minutes of action. Ryan Kriener made his first career start and contributed 14 points, including a 3 just 21 seconds into the game. Isaiah Moss notched his first career double-double with 12 points and a career-best 10 rebounds.
And Tyler Cook continued his steady run of production, collecting 16 points and seven rebounds.
“This was huge,’’ Cook admitted. “Like I said, good teams bounce back. We took a tough loss (on Thursday at Purdue) and there’s nothing we can do except focus on the next one. We take them one game at a time.’’
The Hawkeyes (12-3, 1-3 Big Ten) led for most of the game but the Cornhuskers (11-4, 1-3) chopped the deficit to a single point (41-40) on a 3-point play by James Palmer with 3.2 seconds remaining in the first half. But Kriener flipped a quick inbounds pass to Bohannon, who sprinted to the other end to get his first points of the game.
“That was kind of a big shot for us to get some momentum going into the second half ...’’ Bohannon admitted. “Ryan did a good job of getting a quick outlet and I was able to get it up.’’
Cook said he knew that shot would get Bohannon rolling.
“For any player, when you make a shot like that, it kind of makes the hoop look like the ocean,’’ he said. “I knew he was going to come out and play really great in the second half.’’
The Hawkeyes never trailed again and every time Nebraska looked as though it might get back in the game, Bohannon or someone else did something to slam the door shut.
They led by as much as 11 early in the second half, going on an extended run with Cook on the bench in foul trouble.
When the Cornhuskers took advantage of a rash of Iowa turnovers and closed to within 67-63 on a 3-point play by Isaac Copeland with 8 minutes, 15 seconds remaining, Cook made two free throws and Bohannon drilled a 3-pointer.
When Copeland cut it 72-68, Bohannon knocked down another 3. When Isaiah Roby chopped it to 78-73 on a dunk, Moss slipped inside to score on an offensive rebound, then got the ball to Bohannon for yet another 3 with 2:04 remaining..
“In the second half, when they went to the 1-3-1 zone, someone had to hit a shot,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
“We just kept telling Jordan to shoot,’’ he added. “That’s what he does. I’m really proud of the way he carried us during that one stretch.’’
Bohannon topped things off by making eight straight free throws in the final 52 seconds. For the game, the Hawkeyes were 29 for 32 at the foul line.
Copeland led Nebraska with 24 points with Palmer adding 20 despite not scoring in the first 18 minutes. Roby, who played for the Quad-City Elite AAU team, added 17.
“I don’t think we played with as much urgency as Iowa did,’’ Nebraska coach Tim Miles admitted. “Iowa came out and was really aggressive and got to the foul line. We hung around for a long time, even with foul trouble.’’
Miles also said the Hawkeyes clearly are a better team with the 6-foot-11 Garza, who entered the game to a large ovation with 11:59 remaining in the first half. He scored eight points before halftime, then played fewer than two minutes in the second half.
McCaffery called Garza’s contributions “huge.’’
“It was just great to see him with a smile on his face again,’’ McCaffery said. “I felt like we had to give him a chance today after he worked so hard to get back.’’
Garza said he missed being a part of the action.
“It was a great feeling just to get up and down a little bit and contribute a little bit,’’ he said. “It was just a great team win.’’