Leistikow: If this was goodbye, Jordan Bohannon made sure to leave his Cy-Hawk mark

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

AMES, Ia. — It’s common in wrestling that when a wrestler is retiring, he’ll leave his shoes behind on the mat. It’s meant to signify that he left everything out there.

While Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon probably wasn’t thinking about that comparison Thursday night when he left his game shoes on the Hilton Coliseum hardwood, the parallels were hard to miss.

More than likely, the Hawkeyes’ all-time 3-point leader has played his final game this basketball season.

And if he did, he’s walking away (with hip pain) from this season a winner. And nobody can question that he left it all out there.

Bohannon and the Hawkeyes deserve to celebrate after an energizing 84-68 win at Iowa State.

Jordan Bohannon finished with 12 points in 26 minutes in what could have been his final game of the 2019-20 season, then left his game shoes on the court.

A final revelation about his season could wait until another day.

“I do want to enjoy this one tonight,” he said. “I’m not going to lie.”

Bohannon has channeled all that he’s had during this 10-game experiment, after which he planned to assess whether he was fit to continue. That’s the maximum he can play and still be eligible for a medical hardship waiver, which — if approved — would give him a fifth collegiate season.

“I’m not 100% and I want to be able to get there,” said Bohannon, who had a hip surgically-repaired in the spring. “My mindset coming in was to get this team moving in the right direction, and I think we’re doing a good job of that right now.”

Indeed, Iowa is probably doing better than just about anybody could have predicted — with or without Bohannon. The Hawkeyes in the last two weeks have taken down defending NCAA runner-up Texas Tech, won convincingly over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, dominated Big Ten Conference rival Minnesota and, now, impressively ended an eight-game Hilton losing streak.

They're 8-3. They have the most efficient offense in the nation, according to KenPom.com, as evidenced by a blistering 18-4 start in the first six-plus minutes.

Bohannon had a lot on his mind Thursday night, and that was clear before tip-off.

During the pregame introductions, he and senior classmate Ryan Kriener shared a long embrace, one that looked like it carried lasting significance.

Kriener said he told his best friend, “Love you, man.”

“We always have a hug before the game. That one was a little longer,” said Kriener, who was tenacious in his final Cy-Hawk game with eight points and six rebounds off the bench. “… It could be the last time we play together.”

Bohannon was emotionally charged from the get-go.

He’s always embraced the role of a road rival. Some of his biggest moments as a Hawkeye — and there have been many of them — have come in opposing arenas, in the face of hostility.

That dates to his freshman year, when he most notably split the nets with less than 10 seconds to go to deliver a rare Hawkeye road win at Wisconsin.

After he was called for a questionable charge in the early stages, Bohannon egged on the crowd by demonstrating a "flop" motion and then clapped his hands as he passed the Iowa bench, enjoying every moment of the heated atmosphere.

Not long after, he coolly drained a deep ball from the top of the key, one of about 100 shots he's probably made in his Iowa career from 5 feet behind the 3-point line.

But it was clear as the game went on that Bohannon was not playing like his old self.

He was effective. Just not himself.

Yet even so, he wasn’t about to let this last opportunity to win at Hilton slip away.

As the clock wound under 8 minutes with the Hawkeyes holding a commanding lead, Bohannon was looking at the clock, too, knowing his time was running out — and desperately wanted to get back out there.

Finally, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery summoned him to return with 6:52 remaining and Iowa leading, 73-55.

If this was his final act of the season, Bohannon was going to make it count.

Though his shot was off-target — he finished an uncharacteristic 2-for-12 from the floor — his free throws are rarely off.

Remembering how former Cyclone great Georges Niang blew a kiss to the Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd in December 2014, Bohannon desperately wanted to get to the free-throw line in the final minutes.

He did. Six times.

He swished all six. By the way, that's 24 in a row from the line, dating to last season. Just 10 shy of again tying the late Chris Street's school-record 34.

After the final free throw came Bohannon's kiss to the crowd, with the game in hand and 46 seconds to go.

“I knew I’d be able to make two,” Bohannon said, “and I had a couple fans in the front row saying some stuff about me.

“I had to kind of reciprocate.”

Then the leaving of the shoes, something that originated with an idea by former Cyclone Monte Morris — who talked with Iowa players about leaving his shoes at Carver-Hawkeye in 2016, Bohannon’s freshman year. But Iowa won that game, and Morris didn’t get to deliver on his idea.

After being needled by Niang on Twitter on Wednesday night, Bohannon decided he would leave his shoes on the floor if Iowa won. He was planning to write Iowa’s record against Iowa State on the shoes during his career (3-1) but ran out of room. He simply wrote: “To ISU. Thanks for the Memz.” And signed it with his initials and No. 3 jersey number.

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon's shoes sit on the court after an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa won 84-68. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“I won’t be back in this place,” Bohannon said. “That’s something Iowa fans can hold onto for a little bit.”

The Marion native has always had a flair for the dramatic.

If this was goodbye for this season, he certainly made sure to leave his mark … and he's done good work in leaving the Hawkeyes in a better place.

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 25 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.