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MADISON, Wis. — All the history the Bohannons have in Kohl Center, and Jordan Bohannon’s latest chapter might rank near the top in terms of dramatics.
The youngest of the four Bohannon brothers vaulted his team to a victory Thursday night in Madison, Wis., but this time a Bohannon wasn’t cheered by the fans in red. As former Badgers Zach and Jason Bohannon watched from behind the Iowa bench, Jordan hit a 3-pointer from the wing with 0:09 left on the clock to give the Iowa men’s basketball team a 59-57 victory over No. 21 Wisconsin.
Bohannon was a Badgers fan in his youth — which makes sense when two older brothers go to Final Fours with the program. But after his game-winner and before an embrace from brother Zach, Bohannon had two words for him.
“Go Hawks,” Bohannon said.
The game clearly meant more to the Iowa freshman than others this season, even if he had to hold back saying so until the days leading up to the Hawkeyes’ third straight win and second straight on the road.
Bohannon finished the night with 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting, and 3 of 9 from 3-point range, and had missed six straight from deep before his final dagger sent the Wisconsin faithful home disappointed. He joked after the game he wasn’t sure he wanted to shoot again after his second-to-last 3-point attempt was an air ball.
Luckily for Iowa, Cordell Pemsl snagged an offensive rebound after a missed Peter Jok jumper and kicked it out to Bohannon, who pulled the trigger.
The shot won the game, yes, but it also was an exclamation point on the end of a sentence Bohannon very much wanted to write in this game in particular.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been here — week nights, weekend nights, traveling here to see my brothers play. This game kind of meant more to me,” Bohannon said. “I was kind of overlooked in the recruiting process; a lot of people doubted me, but Coach (Fran) McCaffery was the one who believed in my abilities. This was a game where I wanted to prove myself to everyone out there that I can do this at the Big Ten level. I just tried to keep my composure the entire game. I was fortunate enough to make that shot. Cordell had a huge rebound and great court awareness to find me.”
Iowa led, 32-25, at halftime and forced nine Wisconsin turnovers in the first half to power to that lead. The Hawkeyes shot 7 of 11 from 3-point range in the opening frame, too, and looked in firm control at a venue in which success has not historically been plentiful.
The second half, though, saw the Badgers (22-8, 11-6 Big Ten) look far more like the team everyone has come to expect, forcing nine more Hawkeyes turnovers — Iowa (17-13, 9-8) had 19 total — and they faced a seven-point deficit with less than three minutes to go.
A quick shift into the press after made free throws turned that tide. Two big turnovers and layups by Bohannon and Ahmad Wagner got Iowa to within one. That defense — reminiscent of the first half — enabled Bohannon’s winning shot.
“There were a number of possessions where we created the kind of defensive intensity you need,” McCaffery said. “A lot of times, one guy breaks down and they get one in easy. They had to take two timeouts and we got two turnovers. I thought, even when we weren’t scoring right away or scoring down the stretch when we got good shots, again — we keep saying the word composure — we kept moving the ball; we kept getting good shots. We executed well on the out-of-bounds plays.
“You ask your guys to battle and be in the right place and be together. That’s what they were.”
Iowa’s second straight road win marks a drastic shift, too, in the Hawkeyes’ fortunes on the road. The wins coming against teams in the top five of the Big Ten standings marks a big difference in late-season success as well.
Nicholas Baer led the Hawkeyes with 14 points and five rebounds, while Pemsl added 10 points, two rebounds and the game-winning assist. Tyler Cook had nine points and eight rebounds, and Jok finished with eight points on just 2 of 10 shooting from the field.
But it was Bohannon’s dagger that will overshadow everything else — at least in the short term. What it does for Iowa’s postseason hopes and team morale can come later. Bohannon wanted to prove a point, and that got done.
Like he said, though, McCaffery knew that when seemingly others — the subtext here being Wisconsin, who passed on Bohannon — didn’t. It paid off for everyone in black and gold on Thursday night.
“I can only imagine what it’s like for him and for his family. From my perspective, I started watching the kid when he was in seventh or eighth grade and just fell in love with his game,” McCaffery said. “He consistently makes the kind of plays you saw him make tonight. He’s just never rattled. He’s constantly making those tough plays you want him to make. It doesn’t always happen for young players. Sometimes it takes time. But I’ve seen him do this for five years. What he’s doing is not a surprise to me at all.”
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