Jordan Bohannon stares down Indiana crowd, lifts No. 20 Iowa to gutty victory
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Getting the ball into Jordan Bohannon's hands was the difficult part Thursday.
Releasing the ball was the easy part for Iowa's junior point guard, who calmly stuck 11 nails in Indiana's coffin to propel the No. 20 Hawkeyes to a 77-72 win.
It was the biggest 91-second sequence of Bohannon's Iowa career, and he relished every moment.
After one of his two late 3-pointers, Bohannon gleefully made a "shushing" motion to the crowd announced at 17,222.
"I had a lot of fans on the sideline that were talking crap to me the entire game and I just kept playing my game like I always have my entire life and just let the game come to me," Bohannon said. "And I was fortunate to ... get the ball in my hand late game and did what I've always been since I've been here, just trying to make some big shots."
What was coming from the mouths of the Hoosier faithful?
"Whatever you can think of, honestly," Bohannon smiled. "It gets really personal out there."
After that, everyone in Assembly Hall knew Bohannon was the man to target, especially the Hoosiers, who manhandled him in a vain attempt to force another Hawkeye to shoot key free throws.
Bohannon was not denied. He made 5 of 6 to seal the win. He had Iowa's final 11 points, 25 in all. And the degree of difficulty was exceptional.
In one sequence, Indiana guard Rob Phinisee shoved Bohannon all the way from midcourt to the baseline before drawing a foul. On another, three Hoosiers tugged at Bohannon to try to prevent the inevitable.
"Just worked my butt off and Connor (McCaffery) did a good job of being patient and waiting for secondary cuts," Bohannon said. "Coach (Fran McCaffery) wanted the ball in my hands. They were looking for me. They were screening for me."
Iowa (18-5, 7-5 Big Ten Conference) never got into the double-bonus, meaning each time Bohannon stepped to the free-throw line, he needed to make his first shot to earn a second. He succeeded on each occasion. He even took a few extra moments to stare into the rabid Indiana student section and notice something unusual.
"They had really long balloons out there. I thought it was kind of funny. I was like, 'Where'd you get these big-ass balloons at?'" Bohannon joked. "I think every student had one."
Bohannon had something more valuable in his hands: The basketball.
"I want the ball every time towards the late game," said Bohannon, a career 87.7 percent free-throw shooter. "I've shot close to a million free throws in my entire life. I'm really confident in my stroke at the line and am able to ice some games."
Fran McCaffery drew up three different plays to get the ball into Bohannon's hands late.
"It was execution on behalf of everybody. We had a good lineup in there to handle the press," McCaffery said. "He moves well without it. We really wanted to get it to him."
Bohannon was the star late for Iowa, but it was power forward Tyler Cook who seemed to come up with every key basket until that time. Cook scored 21 points, including a beautiful turnaround jumper to push Iowa's lead to 66-61 with 2:23 left.
"That's a shot that I know I can make and that I work on very often," Cook said. "I was thankfuI I was able to knock it down not only for myself but for our team. It was a big bucket. I'm just thankful the guys trust me to take that."
Indiana (13-10, 4-8) had used a 9-0 run late in the first half to cut Iowa’s biggest lead to 31-29. Cook had the answer, with five quick points. Then Bohannon nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to restore the double-digit edge.
It was a precursor of things to come.
The Hawkeyes led for 36 minutes, 55 seconds.
Bohannon and Cook are the Hawkeyes' junior leaders. They were not going to let their team lose on this night. Iowa is now 3-3 in road games and a virtual lock to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years.
Iowa next hosts Northwestern at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.