By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – A day filled with sadness and controversy over the Gary Dolphin suspension ended on a much happier note as the Iowa men’s basketball team edged Indiana 76-70 in overtime on Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
And you can thank the latest clutch shooting performance by junior point guard Jordan Bohannon, who once again was spectacular with the game on the line.
Bohannon made a 3-point basket late in regulation to force the game into overtime, and then he made three more treys during overtime to lift No. 21 Iowa to yet another dramatic come-from behind victory.
Bohannon’s third trey in overtime gave Iowa a 75-70 lead with 20.2 second left in the five-minute session.
“Oh, my God, it’s a pleasure to play with a guy like that,” Iowa center Luka Garza said of Bohannon. “He can turn it on at any moment.
“Even though he was struggling a little bit, it was late in the game and everyone in the huddle was like, okay, we’re going to get a stop and we’re going to get the ball to Jordan. And that was just kind of our mentality that he was going to be able to make a play.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has been coaching college basketball since the 1980s, but he hasn’t seen many players with Bohannon’s clutch gene.
McCaffery went as far as to say that Bohannon reminded him of NBA sharpshooter Stephen Curry.
“I’ve been doing this a while and I haven’t seen that much,” McCaffery said of Bohannon’s clutch shooting. “It’s funny, I remember when we signed him, I said he’s a lot like Steph. And what I meant was he has that quick trigger. Steph Curry pulls right in your face and that’s what Jordan does.
“And everybody was like, what are you talking about? He’s not like Steph. But he kind of is with those shots and his ability to make those shots look easy. The great thing is we’ve got a group of guys that will get the ball to him.”
Bohannon has developed a pattern in which he struggles for much of the game before catching fire when it matters the most. He scored all 17 of his points in the second half and in overtime on Friday.
“I just have a different level that I try to tap into late game and I was able to do that again tonight,” said Bohannon, who also made a 3-pont basket with .6 seconds remaining to defeat Northwestern 80-79 on Feb. 10th at Carver-Hawkeye Arena .
Iowa improved to 21-6 overall and 10-6 in the Big Ten with four conference games remaining, while Indiana fell to 13-14 and 4-12 in the conference.
The Hoosiers have now lost 12 of their last 13 games under second-year head coach Archie Miller.
Bohannon had struggled for most of the game on offense, but he came through in the clutch as he does so often by making a 3-point basket with 27 seconds left in regulation.
But he also had plenty of help from his teammates, especially Garza, who broke out of a slump by scoring 16 points, and junior forward Tyler Cook, who led all scorers with 18 points.
“Of course, Jordan made those huge shots, but I’d be wrong if I didn’t credit the whole team in terms of making key plays,” Cook said.
Archie Miller was pleased with his team’s defensive performance, even late in the game against Bohannon.
“Give Jordan Bohannon credit,” Miller said. “He’s having an incredibly clutch year. It’s impressive to see.
“I thought our defense on him was great. Once a guy like that makes a three, you’re at his mercy. His range is great. He earned most of those threes.”
Indiana had a chance to win overtime, but freshman Romeo Langford dribbled near the top of the key for about 20 seconds before attempting a 3-point shot that missed by a wide margin.
Langford also missed the front end of a one-and-one in overtime and Iowa answered with a basket by Cook, making the score 65-63 with 3:23 left in overtime.
But it was Bohannon’s deadly 3-point shooting that was the difference in the game. Two of his treys in overtime came with a defender in his face.
“I’m probably a better shooter with a guy in my face than when I’m open this year,” Bohannon said. “Someone has got to tap into those statistics.
“But I feel real confident late game and we ran some good plays down the stretch again and were able to get the ball in my hands.”
Iowa never led in the second half, but still found a way to force the game into overtime, thanks to its sharpshooting point guard and former Linn-Mar star.
Friday’s game started about six hours after it was announced that Dolphin would be suspended indefinitely and through the remainder of the basketball season for a comment he made on air during the Maryland game this past Tuesday.
Dolphin has been Iowa’s play-by-play announcer for men’s basketball and for football for the past 22 years.
His suspension caused a stir on social media as many Iowa fans came to his defense.
Hawkeye fans also came to Carver-Hawkeye Arena in full force on Friday as the game was listed as a sellout. It was hard to find many empty seats except near the top of the student section.
The fans were treated to yet another classic finish by a team that refuses to wilt under the pressure.
“I think we’re just a lot more experienced,” Garza said when asked about Iowa’s ability to win close games. “We’ve got guys that no matter what happens in the game, when it comes down to the end of the game we’ve got to take care of business and get a win.
“And that’s how we’re able to do it. Our coaches, everybody just keeps their composure and we never quit.”