IOWA CITY — It took the Iowa basketball team a few minutes to get going Thursday night.
The No. 5-ranked Hawkeyes went nearly three minutes into their game against Nebraska before they were able to score a point. But once they got rolling, there wasn’t much the visiting Cornhuskers could do to stop them.
Jordan Bohannon tied his career high with eight 3-point field goals and scored a season-high 26 points as the Hawkeyes methodically trounced a Nebraska team that seemingly had found itself in the past week, rolling to a 102-64 victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Luka Garza added 14 points and 8 rebounds and Joe Wieskamp contributed 11 points and 7 rebounds, both while playing considerably fewer minutes than usual in the Hawkeyes’ most lopsided victory of the Big Ten season.
Patrick McCaffery, receiving extended playing time in the rout, fired in a career-best 19 points, 13 of those coming in a four-minute stretch late in the game.
The victory puts the Hawkeyes (19-7, 13-6 Big Ten) just one victory away from the No. 3 seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament. They host No. 25 Wisconsin on Sunday in the regular-season finale.
They also can clinch a top-four seed in the conference tourney if either Ohio State or Purdue loses in their final regular-season games Saturday.
A week or so back, it had all the makings of the proverbial “trap’’ game.
One of the few negatives to come out of the game was the possible loss of sophomore CJ Fredrick. Fredrick, who has missed four full games and parts of several others because of an unspecified lower-leg injury, had his foot stepped on by a Nebraska player with 5 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the first half and went directly to the locker room. He did not play again and was not even on the Iowa bench for much of the second half.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Fredrick was “a little bit sore’’ and said he wasn’t sure if the 6-foot-3 guard could have played in the second half if he had been needed,
“He probably would have said he wanted to go,’’ McCaffery said. “I’m not sure he could have gone. He’s a tough kid but he was pretty sore.’’
As it is, the Hawkeyes didn’t need him following a dominating first half in which they shot 50% from the field and had 14 assists on 18 made baskets.
They also did the job at the other end of the court as Nebraska (7-18, 3-15 Big Ten) shot just 32.3% and committed 12 first-half turnovers.
Once the Hawkeyes finally cracked the scoreboard, on a Garza 3-point play, Bohannon began connecting with regularity from 3-point range. The senior point guard, who will play his final home game with Garza on Sunday, drained five 3-pointers in the first half, including one on a 1-on-2 fast break.
“Any time you have a player make eight 3s in a game, it’s probably going to be a good thing for everybody,’’ Coach McCaffery said.
Bohannon, who hadn’t had a game this prolific since December, admitted it felt good to break out.
“It felt really well knowing that all the work I’ve put in in the last year-and-a-half has some meaning behind it,’’ he said. “I put up a lot of shots through my injury and rehab, and my teammates have the confidence to get the ball to me.’’
Bohannon’s hot hand helped the Hawkeyes roll out to a 29-13 lead. Nebraska, which came in with a two-game winning streak, staged a brief rally to close the gap to 32-23 but then Garza and Connor McCaffery took over for a few minutes to help the Hawkeyes really stack up a lead.
McCaffery hit a 3-pointer and got the ball inside to Garza for another 3-point play. Then, after a Garza 3-pointer, McCaffery threaded a perfect 25-foot bounce pass to Wieskamp on the break for a layup that made it 43-23.
It was 48-26 at the half and Nebraska never came close to mounting a serious threat in the second half.
Garza and Wieskamp did not play in the final 13 ½ minutes and Bohannon came out of the game after making his eighth 3 with 12:28 to go.
Alex Marinelli expects to chase bigger goals later this month, but the Iowa wrestler can accomplish something of a Hawkeye rarity this weekend.
The Hawkeyes continued to add to the lead, however, with freshmen and walk-ons on the court. Bettendorf’s Michael Baer scored his first points of the season on a 10-foot jumper and fellow walk-on Austin Ash also scored.
“I love that group,’’ Fran McCaffery said. “They are really competitive in practice. They’re incredibly positive every day. I was just excited to see them out there.’’
Patrick McCaffery did much of the damage in that final stretch with a shooting streak he said was his best since his high school days at Iowa City West.
“It was kind of like everything I threw up out there was going to go in,’’ he said.
Western Illinois transfer Kobe Webster led Nebraska with 17 points with Lat Mayen and Dalano Banton adding 14 apiece. Mayen also snared 13 rebounds for the Cornhuskers, who routed Rutgers on Monday night and defeated Minnesota in the game before that.
Jack Nunge underwent surgery Tuesday to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee and Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said he is confident that the 6-foot-11 sophomore will make a full recovery.
“We knew we had to buckle down and come together tonight to get this win because they’ve been playing really good basketball,’’ Bohannon said.
“I really think it started with the defensive end tonight,’’ he added. “We were able to get stops and get out in transition ... That led us to a lot of points.’’
Iowa finishes the regular season Sunday with an 11:30 a.m. home game against Wisconsin. Seniors Luka Garza, Jordan Bohannon, Austin Ash and Michael Baer will be honored prior to the game, which will be televised by CBS.
Garza and Bohannon continued to climb Iowa’s career statistical charts in Thursday’s win. Bohannon moved into 12th on the school’s career scoring list, passing Dean Oliver while Garza moved up to fourth in rebounding, passing Ed Horton, and sixth in blocked shots, passing Gabe Olaseni.
No. 5 Iowa 102, Nebraska 64
NEBRASKA (7-17) — Mayen 5-12 0-0 14, Walker 0-1 0-2 0, McGowens 1-7 0-0 3, Thorbjarnarson 1-8 0-0 2, Webster 6-12 0-0 17, Banton 5-11 3-3 14, Andre 2-2 0-0 4, Stevenson 1-3 2-2 4, Lakes 1-6 3-3 6, Ouedraogo 0-2 0-0 0, Piatkowski 0-0 0-0 0, Wood 0-1 0-0 0, Porter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-65 8-10 64.
IOWA (18-7) — Garza 5-8 3-4 14, Bohannon 8-13 2-2 26, Fredrick 1-2 0-0 3, C.McCaffery 1-8 0-0 3, Wieskamp 4-9 1-4 11, P.McCaffery 8-13 0-0 19, Ke.Murray 3-7 2-2 8, Toussaint 2-2 0-0 4, Ulis 1-2 0-0 2, Perkins 0-1 0-2 0, Kr.Murray 1-4 2-2 4, Ash 1-2 0-0 2, Baer 1-1 0-0 2, Ogundele 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 38-74 10-16 102.
Halftime—Iowa 48-26. 3-Point Goals—Nebraska 12-36 (Webster 5-8, Mayen 4-8, McGowens 1-4, Banton 1-5, Lakes 1-6, Stevenson 0-1, Thorbjarnarson 0-4), Iowa 16-43 (Bohannon 8-12, P.McCaffery 3-6, Wieskamp 2-6, Fredrick 1-2, Garza 1-3, C.McCaffery 1-7, Ash 0-1, Perkins 0-1, Kr.Murray 0-2, Ke.Murray 0-3). Rebounds—Nebraska 36 (Mayen 13), Iowa 44 (Garza 8). Assists—Nebraska 15 (Thorbjarnarson 5), Iowa 25 (C.McCaffery 8). Total Fouls—Nebraska 11, Iowa 10. A—549 (15,500).