By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Jordan Bohannon will return to the place on Thursday where he made arguably his biggest shot as an Iowa basketball player, and that’s saying something.
Bohannon made a 3-point basket in the final seconds to lift Iowa to a 59-57 victory over Wisconsin on March 2, 2017 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.
To make a game-winning shot under any circumstance is special, but the circumstances two years ago in Madison were almost too good to be true with Bohannon’s family sitting nearby and with two of his older brothers having played for the Badgers.
Wisconsin also didn’t offer Jordan Bohannon a scholarship, so that was yet another storyline surrounding that shot.
“That was a lot of fun, my family right behind the bench, a memory I’ll always have for the rest of my life,” Bohannon said. “You can’t really write a better story than how it ended.”
Bohannon has a constant reminder of his game-winning shot at Wisconsin that now hangs over his bed.
It is mural painted by a Hawkeye fan named Dennis Booth, who passed away shortly after Bohannon made the game-winning shot at Wisconsin in 2017.
“It’s kind of special, I have it up on my wall right over my bed,” Bohannon said. “So every time I go to my room I see that shot. That’s definitely a memory I’ll always have for the rest of my life. That picture definitely has some sentimental meaning to it.”
Iowa forward Cordell Pemsl, who is being redshirted this season, also deserves some credit for the game-winner at Wisconsin for grabbing a missed shot by Peter Jok and then passing to Bohannon, who was wide open behind the 3-point line.
Bohannon didn’t hold back on Tuesday while talking about facing the Badgers in Madison again. The media didn’t even have to ask Bohannon if he had moved on from the anger and disappointment from not being offered a scholarship by Wisconsin because he brought up that subject right away.
“Like I said freshman year, it felt forever ago, but the school that doubted me and doubted what I could do at this level and didn’t think I could get to this point in my life, it’s just added fuel to my fire ever since I stepped foot on the floor at Iowa,” Bohannon said.
Iowa could use some additional fuel because it is sputtering down the stretch, having lost three of the last four games, including an 86-72 beat-down against Rutgers on Senior Day this past Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Hawkeyes still are considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but their seed is falling with each loss.
Their head coach also will be absent from Thursday’s game as Fran McCaffery serves the second of his two-game suspension for berating an official in the moments after Iowa’s 90-70 loss against Ohio State on Feb. 26 in Columbus.
And it’ll be Senior Day at Wisconsin on Thursday, and that will include one of the Big Ten’s top players being honored in 6-foot-10 senior forward Ethan Happ, who grew up near the Quad Cities in Milan Ill.
Happ had 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block in Wisconsin’s 72-66 victory over Iowa in the Big Ten opener way back on Nov. 30th at Carver-Hawkeye.
Wisconsin guard D’Mitrik Trice also was a huge factor in that game with 20 points and four 3-point baskets.
The Badgers trailed by double figures late in the second half, but still found a way to win.
“There were a lot of close games that could have went different this year, but that was another one that we look back on and thought we had it,” Bohannon said. “We had them for most of the game. We just didn’t close it out.”
The Iowa players held a meeting on Monday with the coaches in what they said was an attempt to stay connected during a rough stretch.
The players tried to downplay the meeting with the media on Tuesday.
“I think we’re just staying connected, nothing really to it,” Bohannon said. “Nothing new being said. It wasn’t a big deal or anything. It’s just one of those things where you just have stay connected, especially towards the end of the year because we still have a lot to accomplish.”
Bohannon is certainly right about that.
Following Thursday’s game against the Badgers, Iowa will close out the regular at Nebraska on Sunday.
The Cornhuskers are unraveling under embattled head coach Tim Miles, but it also will be Senior Day on Sunday in Lincoln, so it’s hard to know what to expect from Nebraska.
Iowa just needs to win a game in a hurry to stop the bleeding and to help its postseason resume.
Bohannon is now considered one of the most clutch shooters in the Big Ten due to his success with making big shots with the game on the line.
He scored Iowa’s last 11 points in the final 90 seconds in a road win over Indiana, and he made a game-winning 3-point shot with .6 seconds remaining to defeat Northwestern.
So if Thursday’s game comes down to Iowa having to make a game-winning shot, Bohannon will almost certainly be option A.
But the Badgers also know that, as do their fans, who apparently weren’t very hospitable to the Bohannon family two years ago, and that includes former Wisconsin players Jason Bohannon and Zach Bohannon.
“I hit that gamer winner and TV was right on them after that shot and there we so many Wisconsin fans giving them crap,” Jordan Bohannon said of his brothers. “You guys got to be serious. It’s family. Family rules over anything.”
Bohannon will have his family in the Kohl Center on Thursday, including older brother, Zach Bohannon, who has attended all of Jordan’s games in college, home and away.
It’s a huge game for Jordan Bohannon from a personal standpoint, but just as big for his team.
Iowa is struggling to make shots as a team, and the problems on offense have seeped over to the defense.
Iowa, like so many teams, has a bad habit of struggling on defense when it is struggling to make shots on offense.
“Yes, I would say -- I think that's a fair point,” said Fran McCaffery. “It shouldn't be. It should be the reverse. But I think it kind of works that way sometimes.”
Asked why it works that way, McCaffery said:
“I think energy level. You get -- you sort of feed off the energy level offensively when you're cooking on offense. It just carries over to everything else that you do, whether it be cuts and movement on offense or sprinting in transition on offense or sprinting back and being up toward the ball, being over toward the ball, pressuring the ball on defense. Your energy level is just better when your offense is clicking.”
Iowa has lost two games in a row and is 4-3 over its last seven games, including two fluke wins over Rutgers and Northwestern. But the Hawkeyes are also 21-8 overall and 10-8 in the Big Ten.
So this season still could go in a number of directions.
“We’ve had two games where we haven’t really played our best, so we’ve got to bounce back and we’ve got to make something happen in these next two games just to get some momentum going into the postseason,” said sophomore center Luka Garza. “We know what we’re capable of and we know we can do that.”
Iowa vs. Wisconsin
When: 6 p.m., Thursday
Where: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.
All-time series: The Badgers own a narrow 84-81 advantage in the all-time series, and have won 12 of the last 14 games in Madison. Nine of the last 13 meetings dating back to 2011 have been decided by seven points or less.