In the end, it was familiar blood that did the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team in.
Jason and Zach Bohannon proudly represented the Badgers program for the better part of a decade, but youngest brother Jordan, a member of the Iowa Hawkeyes, had no mind for that Thursday night at the Kohl Center. His 3-pointer with 9.7 seconds remaining gave Iowa a 59-57 victory, stunning the Kohl Center crowd and No. 22 UW alike.
Wisconsin’s last-ditch effort resulted in a long 2-point jumper from Bronson Koenig that fell short. Iowa corralled the rebound as those clad in red went from a celebratory mindset to shock in a matter of minutes. It was Wisconsin’s fifth loss in six games, all coming at the hands of unranked opponents.
“We walk such a fine line and we have all year,” UW head coach Greg Gard said. “Little details, whether it be turnovers at inopportune times or a simple defensive rebound in the last possession, make a big difference. Those things add up.”
Gard said he addressed a somber locker room following the game, as it dawned on the Badgers (22-8, 11-6 Big Ten) that any chance of sharing the claim to a Big Ten title vanished with the loss.
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UW led by 9 as late as the 3:46 mark, but Iowa (17-13, 9-8) came storming back. That lead shrunk to just 3 over the next two minutes, and UW’s trouble with breaking the press came back to bite them. The Badgers committed three turnovers in the game’s final three minutes and 12 seconds. Ahmad Wagner’s layup off a stolen inbounds pass made it a 1-point game at 57-56, and neither team scored until Jordan Bohannon’s 3 sucked the life out of the building.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been here – a lot of weeknights, traveling here, seeing my brothers play, so this game kind of meant more to me,” Jordan Bohannon said after the game. “I wanted to prove to everyone that I could do this at the Big Ten level. I just tried to keep my composure the entire game and I was fortunate enough to make that shot.”
The youngest Bohannon finished with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting and five assists.
UW was 5-for-14 from the free throw line and redshirt sophomore Ethan Happ alone was 1-for-7, with none as fatal his final two misses. Happ (11 points) clanked a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left and the Hawkeyes inbounded with 29.4 seconds on the clock. Peter Jok missed the initial chance from inside the paint, but UW senior Nigel Hayes mistimed his jump to apex the rebound and the ball wound up in the hands of Iowa’s Nicholas Baer. Baer dished to Cordell Pemsl, who found Jordan Bohannon for the game-winner amid the chaos.
“He feels awful about it,” Gard said about Happ’s free throw performance. He is now shooting 48.5 percent (65-for-134) from the line this season.
A slew of other factors contributed to the loss. Wisconsin was just 6-for-23 from 3-point range (26.1 percent). Iowa’s bench outscored that of UW’s 24-4, and the Hawkeyes out-rebounded the Badgers 37-27.
Jok entered the game as the Big Ten’s leading scorer (20.6 ppg), but was essentially a nonfactor Thursday. UW never allowed him the opportunity to enter his comfort zone, as he was just 2-for-10 from the field with 8 points.
After trailing by 5 at halftime, Wisconsin posted a 19-4 run in a span lasting nearly 11 minutes during the second half.
With the game tied at 45 and less than nine minutes remaining, Iowa then began to self-destruct, missing inside baskets, turning it over and committing pointless fouls.
Happ converted a bucket down low, in which he evaded the stretching hands of three Iowa defenders, and retook the lead for Wisconsin. On the ensuing Iowa possession, redshirt junior Jordan Hill — on the court for his defense — intercepted a perimeter pass and took it the length of the floor, flushing it with two hands to make it 49-45 and bring the Kohl Center to its feet. Then Koenig knocked down a turn-around jumper as the shot clock wound down and fifth-year senior Zak Showalter (11 points) drilled a 3-pointer with 4:15 left, giving Wisconsin its largest lead of the night at 54-45.
Only to see it all fade away and then some.
“We gotta stop shooting ourselves in the foot first,” a dejected Hayes (10 points) said. “We gotta put together a full game. We come out and play well in spurts. We’re too ‘spurty,’ that’s the word. We have our moments where we’re really good, we’ll give you a good five minutes and we’ll forget what we’re doing for the next five.”
The only positive in the first half for Wisconsin was Koenig, who nailed three 3-pointers and scored 11 of his points in the frame. Iowa was on fire from beyond the arc too. Baer, an AAU teammate of Happ, made all four of his 3-point attempts in the half and the Hawkeyes finished 7-of-11 from 3 to start the game. Baer finished with a team-high 14 points.
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Wisconsin held a 6-point lead about midway through the half, but Iowa cued up a 15-2 run to end the half. Jok’s and-one tied the game at 23 with five minutes to go and the Hawkeyes took the lead at the 4:21 mark with an Isaiah Moss 3-pointer. UW endured a six minute and 42 second scoreless streak, which was snapped by a Koenig drive with 37 seconds left in the half. This accounted for Wisconsin’s only points during Iowa’s run, which was capitalized by a Baer triple from the right side with six seconds left – despite referees missing Jordan Bohannon’s blatant travel on the assist. Nonetheless, the Hawkeyes carried a 32-25 lead into the locker room.
It was a sloppy half of basketball, with the two teams combining for 19 turnovers. It’s a night the Badgers would rather forget in its entirety, though.
“We just gotta finish halves, that’s our issue right now,” Showalter said. “I think we’re comin’ out pretty strong and our plus-minus early in the halves I think is in our favor, but for some reason we’re just not finishing and that’s kind of been what this team was so good at early in the season, was those clutch minutes and finishing halves.”