By Michael Harley | @mhar3481
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — In his 177th game as an Iowa Hawkeye, Jordan Bohannon banked in the biggest shot of his career.
With a semifinal game of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament against Indiana knotted at 77, the Hawkeyes were looking to take the final shot of regulation. The final play didn’t go as planned and the offense became scattered as Bohannon ran toward the top of the key. He a took the ball from teammate Connor McCaffery, who had picked up his dribble and was in trouble facing suffocating defensive pressure.
With the time expiring and no play to run, Bohannon dribbled backwards towards halfcourt before taking a step forward just inside the mid-court logo. He pulled up from well beyond NBA 3-point range, launched a shot just over the outstretched left hand of Indiana defender Trey Galloway, and banked in the improbable game-winner with just 1.1 seconds remaining. Iowa players stormed the court and mobbed Bohannon, as the mostly pro-Indiana crowd in Gainbridge Fieldhouse looked on with stunned shock on their faces.
After an unsuccessful Indiana heave, Iowa’s 80-77 victory advanced the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten championship game for the first time since 2006 and the fourth time in program history. The Hawkeyes (25-9) will meet the Purdue Boilermakers at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in an attempt to add to their tournament championships in 2006 and 2001.
“I can’t even put into words the amount of times I was throwing up those kind of shots in the backyard with my brothers,” said Bohannon, a sixth-year player whose move from off guard to point guard contributed to Iowa’s late-season success. “I could never get in the paint because they would just foul me so much, I just had to shoot those shots. So in a way it kind of prepared me to be a deeper end shooter and shoot the ball well from that kind of distance.”
Indiana (20-13) was denied a second appearance in the conference title game and a first in Indianapolis. Once more, the Hoosiers were led by sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who scored 31 points with 10 rebounds, his second game this season with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds. In his three tournament games, Jackson-Davis averaged 25.3 points and 8.3 rebounds. Junior guard Xavier Johnson scored 12 of his 20 points in the second half.
Bohannon, the son of a former Iowa quarterback, scored nine of his 12 points in the final 2:27 to help the Hawkeyes overcome a six-point deficit with 3:27 to go. “I remember about four minutes to go we’re down five,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, “and I just felt like in the huddle that these guys kept believing and that’s what they had to do.”
Iowa sophomore forward Keegan Murray, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, scored 32 points with nine rebounds. Murray buried eight of his 10 3-point attempts and finished the game shooting 11-for-17 from the field. “I tried to tell our teammates to start screening for me a little bit more and they did that,” Murray said. “They did a really good job of that. I was able to get open looks and just credit to our guys that are screening for me. They were really big for us.”
The Hawkeyes made six of their last seven shots, including four 3-pointers inside the last 2:27. “We want everybody to shoot threes,” McCaffery said. “Everybody we’re looking at, that is a big component of the evaluation process.”
Indiana, in its first semifinal appearance since 2013, believes the victories here over Michigan and Illinois secured a spot in the NCAA tournament. Jackson-Davis addressed the mindset of the team moving forward into the postseason. “I think we’ve proven not only to the Big Ten but to the country that we’re also a team, a top team that can compete with anyone,” he said. “It took the last-second three to beat us from the hottest team in the Big Ten right now and it stings, but at the same time I feel like we’ve got a lot of ball left.”
The Hoosiers had said, more than once, that they had packed for a trip that would last until Sunday. For all their disappointment, they were able to appreciate the moment.
“I saw the shot clock and then I saw he was pretty well defended,” Jackson-Davis said, “and he was almost like probably four, five feet away from half court, so I knew he was going to hoist one up. And then as the ball – I saw – I thought it was going to be long and then it banked in and sometimes that’s what happens. It’s March, so obviously March Madness, it’s (a) crazy, crazy time of year.
“But even the stadium and the electricity, just playing in that stadium was really cool.”
As Iowa’s last play started to break down, the coach of the Hawkeyes debated whether to call a timeout.
“As a coach, you’re like, ‘Take a timeout, don’t take a timeout,’” McCaffery said. “He looked up and he just raised up and drilled it.
“As long as he’s shooting it,” McCaffery said, “it’s probably better than anything I could have drawn up, anyway.”