IOWA CITY — It takes courage to be a team’s primary long-range shooter in basketball, to be the guy a team counts on to stick shots most players can’t consistently make.
It takes more guts to do what Jordan Bohannon did Sunday night, which was intentionally miss a free throw at a moment in which his Iowa team had yet to fully secure a victory.
The Hawkeyes beat Northwestern 77-70 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The game itself had little cosmic meaning. Iowa snapped a six-game losing streak and dodged tying Rutgers for last place in the Big Ten. The BTN won’t replay it 27 times this summer.
But when Bohannon went to the foul line for a one-and-one with 2:15 left and Iowa’s lead having shrunk from 50-28 earlier in the half to 73-65, the Hawkeyes needed some feel-safe points. Bohannon at the line seemed as safe as a Swiss bank.
He had made two free throws late in the first half to tie Chris Street’s all-time Iowa record at 34 in a row. Here was the chance for Nos. 35 and 36, and more distance from the Wildcats.
It was short. On purpose. Then Bohannon pointed toward the sky.
“That’s not my record to have,” Bohannon said later.
“I didn’t think Coach (Fran McCaffery) would be too happy at the moment, but he knew that life obviously was much bigger than basketball.
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“That’s been on my mind for a while. He knew I wanted to leave it short and not make it too obvious.”
McCaffery said he wasn’t surprised by the deliberate miss.
“I thought about discussing it with him,” McCaffery said. “I left it up to him, what he chose to do. I think it’s awesome.”
Whether the in-game coach felt was in harmony with that, only McCaffery knows.
“You know how we are as coaches,” he said. “We can never have enough points. But I knew he was going to make the next two.”
Which Bohannon did with 50 seconds left to push Iowa’s lead to 77-67.
Postgame McCaffery said he was content with his player’s decision “under the circumstances, because of whose record it was.”
It was Street’s, the record is 25 years old, and a lot of Hawkeyes and Iowans want his name to forever stay in the school’s record book. Bohannon, born four years after Street’s 1993 death, is Hawkeye/Iowan enough to know he didn’t want to be the eraser.
“If it’s anybody else’s record,” McCaffery said, “yeah, it’s OK. We can talk about it. But the circumstances in which a family member of ours was taken from us, we remember that.”
Bohannon met with Street’s parents, Mike and Patty Street, after the game. They told him they wanted him to have the mark. Chris Street would probably have told him not just to break the record, but to quintuple it.
However, Bohannon didn’t want that. He said he talked it over with his brother, Zach Bohannon, and they agreed he should brick No. 35.
“We kind of were in agreement it was God’s plan,” Jordan Bohannon said.
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“You saw that tonight. I missed it, we got the ball right back (on a Nicholas Baer steal). That just shows you — I don’t know if it was really destined to happen. It just worked out as it should have.”
Northwestern’s coach is Chris Collins, who took a recruiting visit to Iowa as a highly-regarded prep.
“Chris Street hosted me on my visit,” Collins said. “He was a close friend of mine.”
Collins went to Duke and was a substitute for the Blue Devils when they beat Iowa on Jan. 16, 1993, the last game Street played. Street made his 33rd- and 34th-consecutive free throws that game.
“Hearing that (Bohannon missed to settle for a tie of the record) makes me feel good,” Collins said. “I’m so proud of Jordan for doing that.”
He wasn’t as thrilled Bohannon sank six straight 3-pointers in the first half as the Hawkeyes rocketed past his guys.
Collins’ own player, Scottie Lindsey, tied the Carver record for 3-pointers in a men’s game with nine. But Lindsey couldn’t bring the Wildcats all the way back from a huge hole.
For one of the rare times this Big Ten season, it was Iowa’s night. Even with a shot it missed on purpose.
Come to think of it, that made it all the sweeter.
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