Jordan Bohannon drains late free throws to sink Wisconsin in Carver-Hawkeye Arena finale

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — An Iowa senior received the ultimate honor, while a freshman looked poised for greatness.

But Sunday’s regular-season finale at Carver-Hawkeye Arena ultimately belonged to Jordan Bohannon, who tormented Wisconsin one final time and showed that there’s a depth to his game that goes beyond just knocking down 3-pointers.

Bohannon forced himself to the free-throw line for five shots in the final 68 seconds of an old-fashioned Big Ten Conference scrum. He made them all, then walked out of the arena for the final time as a Hawkeye athlete after sealing a 77-73 win and a coveted No. 3 seed in the Big Ten tournament.

Bohannon took his shoes with him this time. He’ll be needing them.

“I was trying to make something happen,” Bohannon said of the fouls he pursued, and drew, when Iowa needed to manufacture some points.

“That was a football game from every aspect of the defensive and offensive end. That gets us ready for what’s to come.”

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Bohannon did resemble his father, Gordy, a onetime Hawkeye quarterback who wasn’t afraid to stick his helmet into the middle of a swarm of defenders.

With 1 minute, 11 seconds left and Iowa down a single point, Bohannon grabbed a long defensive rebound and headed upcourt with two Badgers trying to decide whether he was going to pull up for a deep jumpshot or try to challenge them at the rim.

Bohannon is 6-foot-1. He is Iowa’s all-time leader in 3-pointers. 

He never hesitated, driving headlong until Brad Davison was called for a foul.

Bohannon made both of those free throws to put the Hawkeyes ahead 70-69. He is a career 89% shooter from the stripe, but had only 34 attempts all season entering the game.

He got three more 34 seconds later, coming off a Luka Garza screen at the arc with just enough separation from D’Mitrik Trice to force the Wisconsin guard to make a difficult decision. Trice was called for a reach-in foul as Bohannon's shot rimmed out.

Bohannon made all three free throws. No. 8 Iowa (20-7, 14-6 Big Ten) had the lead for good.

Jordan Bohannon at the free-throw line usually spells doom for Iowa opponents. It sure did for Wisconsin on Sunday. Bohannon made five of them in the final 68 seconds to earn the Hawkeyes a 77-73 victory.

“He’s obviously one of the best 3-point shooters ever to play college basketball,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Bohannon, who has made 355 of them. “You’re going to have to press up on him, which is what they did. So if you do that, he’s going to draw fouls and he’s going to get to the rim.”

Bohannon did both when it mattered most. He finished with 16 points and eight assists. And then he spoke about the importance of winning such a pulsating Big Ten game, the kind the Hawkeyes are likely to encounter again when the league tournament begins next week in Indianapolis. Their Friday opponent may very well be the Badgers (16-11, 10-10) for a third time this year.

“There were so many tangle-ups, so many stoppages of play. It just shows how aggressive and physical this league is, and you need to be very tough-minded to win,” Bohannon said.

“We continued to stick to what our roots are, what got us to this point.”

Forcing his way to the free-throw line isn’t necessarily what Bohannon’s roots are. But that was what was needed Sunday. And that is what won Iowa the game.

Iowa center Luka Garza smiles while carrying a framed jersey on senior day before its Big Ten season finale on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Big honor for Iowa big man Luka Garza, and his mother got to see it

Garza scored 21 points, with 16 rebounds, to lead the Hawkeyes in both categories Sunday. He played 37 minutes in his final game at CHA.

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And yet it was what happened after the final horn had sounded that will be the lasting image of him from this game.

McCaffery pulled Garza aside and whispered the news to him that his No. 55 will be retired when the season ends. The coach wanted to make sure his player knew that he would be asked to give a short speech after Iowa athletic director Gary Barta made the official announcement.

“He immediately broke down, as you saw. Pretty emotional moment for both of us,” McCaffery said of the player he helped develop into a unanimous all-American and the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,201 points and counting.

“I didn’t expect that at all. I didn’t really realize that was a plan,” Garza said. “I was just really happy that we won the game, and then for coach to tell me that, it was a surreal feeling. That moment will be something I remember forever. Time slowed down as I heard those words.”

More:Iowa basketball will retire Luka Garza's No. 55 jersey after season

Garza will be the ninth Iowa men’s basketball player to have his jersey retired. Barta said a ceremony will be arranged once fans are allowed to attend games again.

Garza used some of his postgame interview to revisit his disappointment about not getting wins on Senior Day the past two seasons. He took this losses personally, and was determined to avoid a repeat for his own class, which included Bohannon, Austin Ash and Michael Baer.

The moment was made sweeter for him because his mother, Sejla, and sister, Tesa, were able to see him play in person for the first time this winter. His father, Frank, is a fixture at Hawkeye games, but the rest of Garza’s family typically can only attend when Iowa is playing back East, near their Washington, D.C., home.

Garza hasn’t been able to see his mother or sister since August, when the Hawkeyes started isolating themselves in order to avoid any COVID-19 outbreaks.

Throughout pregame warmups, Sejla Garza stood and watched her son, rarely taking her eyes off him. She convulsed with laughter when Luka said during a halftime video shown on the scoreboard that it was Sejla, not Frank, who has been his biggest critic.

“I miss her so much,” Luka said afterward. “It’s hard on both of us that we’re not going to get to see each other. I might go by their hotel and stand outside and wave.”

Fortunately for the Garzas, they have one more great excuse to return as a family to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The jersey retirement ceremony will certainly draw a full house.

Iowa forward Keegan Murray (15) is embraced by teammates Luka Garza, second from left, Jordan Bohannon (3) and Michael Baer, right, after pulling down a rebound on a missed free throw during Sunday's game against Wisconsin.

Rookie Keegan Murray rises to the moment again, earns a bold prediction

“He made the biggest play of the game,” Garza said afterward.

He was talking about the contribution of a cool-headed freshman, Keegan Murray. Much like he did in the late going of a January win at Rutgers, it was Murray who seized the moment when Sunday’s outcome was hanging in the balance.

Iowa’s Connor McCaffery missed the second of two free throws with 46 seconds left, leaving the score tied 71-71.

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No matter. Murray raced around Wisconsin senior Aleem Ford, grabbed the rebound and thought about passing the basketball out to the perimeter. But he lost his balance, looked down to see his toes were still inbounds and alertly called timeout. Bohannon was at the free-throw line 10 seconds later. Iowa was celebrating a big one 34 seconds after that, thanks in part to a pair of free throws that Murray knocked down late.

Murray finished with 13 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. The Cedar Rapids native has been a huge presence for Iowa throughout his rookie season but was never more needed than he was Sunday.

“That ended up being pretty big for the end of the game,” Murray said of his rebound.

He has mastered the understatement.

Murray credited meditation with helping him maintain his composure during key moments in tight basketball games.

“Nothing rattles him. He made huge plays. That’s what winning players do, and he’s a winning player,” Fran McCaffery said, expanding on Murray’s sentiment.

“He just has a really good sense of where to go and where to be. Even if he forgets, he just always seems to end up in the right place, and that takes tremendous feel for how to play.”

Bohannon, a graduate of Linn-Mar, repeated his claim from after the Rutgers game that it’s the Cedar Rapids water that creates such great athletes. He was likely joking. But he did have a bold prediction for Murray, one that seems to be bearing out.

“He’s going to be a superstar in the next year and the years to come," Bohannon said. "And he’s stepping into that role now. … You can’t ask for a better playmaker at the end of the game. He’s playing like an upperclassman, a vet, and that’s going to be huge for us going into postseason play.”

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.