Iowa takeaways: On Bohannon's poignant act, Cook and Garza's big baskets late, and a defensive switch that caught Northwestern by surprise

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Jordan Bohannon brought meaning to an otherwise-meaningless college basketball game Sunday.

The fact that an end-of-season Iowa-Northwestern game became a national talking point is solely because of the free throw that Bohannon intentionally missed, an act that thrust the legacy of Chris Street back into the spotlight.

Bohannon’s six consecutive 3-point makes in the first half enabled the Hawkeyes to build a 22-point lead that was more than enough to ensure an eventual 77-70 victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa's Jordan Bohannon points to the sky after keeping Chris Street's consecutive free throw record intact during the Hawkeyes' game against Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018.

The only drama possible was whether Bohannon would make a 35th consecutive free throw to eclipse Street’s 25-year-old school mark.

He chose not to, saying simply that he didn’t deserve to take that record from Street, an iconic Hawkeye who perished Jan. 19, 1993, during his junior season.

Bohannon’s gesture touched Street’s parents, Mike and Patty, who were in attendance and shared an embrace with the sophomore point guard afterward.

Northwestern coach Chris Collins, a friend of Street’s, was moved by it as well.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, admitting that he wasn’t aware Bohannon intended to miss the free throw that would have given him the outright mark, said he wasn’t surprised either.

“I kind of thought he was going to make them,” McCaffery said of the moment Bohannon stepped to the line for a one-and-one with 2:15 remaining and Iowa ahead 73-65. “I get why he didn’t — he was confident we were still going to win the game. You know who we are as coaches sometimes — you can never have enough points. But I knew he was going to make the next two.”

Bohannon did that, and finished with 25 points.

Bohannon admitted that the timing of his missed free throw wasn’t ideal, with the victory not yet assured. But his plan all along was not to pass Street’s mark, and he stuck with it.

“I knew Chris was looking down on us, and he wasn’t going to let that (an Iowa loss) happen, either, if we got to that point,” Bohannon said. “Life’s a lot bigger than basketball.”

McCaffery understood.

“The circumstances under which a family member of ours was taken from us, we remember that,” he said of Street. “He was an Iowa kid. You have another Iowa kid who ties the record.”

If Bohannon had made the free throws, it would have been noted by the local writers in attendance and gotten little fanfare.

Instead, Bohannon’s intentional miss brought an outpouring of attention from every national media outlet, praising him for injecting such a poignant moment into a game that few would have otherwise cared about.

And that’s the point Bohannon was making by his refusal to make that one single point in Sunday’s game.

How many basketball fans are aware of who holds their favorite team’s record for consecutive free throws? It’s typically an obscure statistic.

Except at Iowa, where everyone knows the significance of “34.” Street’s record endures as a reminder of what could have been, and of what was lost in that car accident that cut his life short.

Street never got the chance to add to his record.

Bohannon made sure it wouldn't be taken away.

That’s the essence of sportsmanship.

Cook, Garza do their part

The Hawkeyes had 45 points at the half, but only six of them came in the paint. That’s what happens when Bohannon is making six 3-pointers.

In the second half, though, post players Tyler Cook and Luka Garza made a series of tough shots to help Iowa maintain a comfortable lead.

The most memorable was Cook’s one-handed rebound and putback while being fouled by a desperately clinging Anthony Gaines with 4:41 left and the Hawkeyes leading 68-56.

“I don’t even remember what happened, really. Somebody (it was Garza) missed and I got it back,” Cook said after recording his seventh double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

“I didn’t have a left hand to use, so somebody had it.”

McCaffery pointed to that Cook basket, plus a pair from Garza and a tip-in by Nicholas Baer — for his only points of the game — as being the four most significant plays late in the game.

Garza said he was watching from the bench as Iowa’s 18-point lead dipped to 16, then 14, then 12…

“I was, like, ‘Once I get back out there, I’m just going to try to help the team out any way I can, hustle around, try to get us out of here with a win,’” Garza said. “I came in just with some confidence. When I caught the ball those two times, I knew I was going to score.”

Garza finished with 18 points, including a pair of short jumpers through heavy contact in the final 3:15 to keep the Wildcats at bay. He scored the basket after Bohannon’s missed free throw that pushed Iowa’s lead back to 10 points. He and Cook each grabbed four offensive rebounds as the Hawkeyes piled up 20 second-chance points. Iowa scored 18 of its 32 second-half points in the paint.

“I think that’s a good sign for me and my confidence, to be able to take the hit and still finish through it,” Garza said of his final two baskets.

The freshman has grown up fast in the physical Big Ten Conference.

A defensive surprise

Collins said he expected to be facing a zone defense at the beginning of Sunday’s game, since the Hawkeyes had done so in their previous four contests.

Iowa came out in man-to-man instead and forced the Wildcats into eight first-half turnovers, scoring 12 points off of them.

“We were prepared with some things we were going to do against (the zone defense). But they ended up coming out with great energy in their man-to-man. They turned us over early,” Collins said.

McCaffery said of his experimentation with zone defense early in recent games: “I thought it was OK. I didn’t think it was good enough to keep starting games in zone.”

On Sunday, “The defensive intensity triggered some fast-break opportunities and got us out running, got us some easy buckets. And I think consequently the defensive intensity picked up as well,” McCaffery added.

The Wildcats adjusted and scored 42 points in the second half, making 9 of 15 3-pointers. So clearly, Iowa’s defensive issues weren’t solved. But for one half at least, things were markedly better.

“Just trying to take pride in guarding, making sure we’re paying attention to who we’re guarding, the game plan,” Cook said.

A senior has his moment

Dom Uhl was part of that early defensive effort. Iowa’s lone scholarship senior made his first start of the season in his Carver-Hawkeye Arena finale, a 6-foot-9 “small” forward.

Uhl blocked a pair of shots in his abbreviated 8-minute outing.

“Dom was really good. He didn’t play like he was nervous,” McCaffery said. “He shouldn’t have been. He’s a senior. He’s started before.”

Uhl was happy to leave his home arena with one last win.

As for his blocked shots, Uhl explained his strategy: “Just moving my feet quick, kind of stay in front of the guy so they don’t cross me over, using my length as an advantage.”

Mission accomplished.