IOWA CITY — With four or five minutes remaining in Sunday’s game, quite a few of the Iowa fans in Carver-Hawkeye Arena got out of their seats and began trudging for the exits, heads down, shoulders slumped, features furrowed into frowns.
Their team trailed a not-so-imposing Northwestern team by 15 points and nothing seemed to be going right. The Hawkeyes were missing layups. The visiting Wildcats were banking in off-balance 3-point attempts. There didn’t seem to be any reason to hang around.
They should have stayed.
They could have watched Jordan Bohannon score all 15 of his points in the final six minutes, including a 3-point field goal with 0:00.3 showing on the clock to help the Hawkeyes steal an improbable 80-79 victory over the Wildcats.
“It didn’t look like it was going to happen today,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery admitted. “But I kept looking up there, saying, ‘There’s enough time.’’’
Just barely enough.
Northwestern made a handful of late mistakes against the Iowa press and missed a few free throws in the final minute to leave the door ajar for what a few minutes earlier seemed impossible. When Vic Law, who led the Wildcats with 24 points, missed the second of two free throws with 10.8 seconds remaining, it left Northwestern holding a 79-77 lead.
The Wildcats were called for a kicked ball with three seconds remaining and while the officials looked at a video replay, McCaffery set up a final play that included four options. It was just a matter of Connor McCaffery making the right decision on the inbounds pass.
“It’s one of those things where if it ends the way it did, you know Jordan is going to make the shot,’’ coach McCaffery said.
Bohannon caught the pass near the top of the key, turned and fired up a fallaway shot that hit nothing but net, then ran over and slapped high-fives with several of the spectators who had stayed.
Northwestern’s Dererk Pardon caught a long inbounds pass and fired up a futile 25-foot shot that kicked off the back rim after time expired.
“Any time we have an opportunity like that I want the ball in my hands,’’ said Bohannon, who had a similar game Thursday at Indiana, scoring 11 of his 25 points in the final 90 seconds of an Iowa victory.
“I knew before the ball even left my hand that I was going to make it,’’ he said of Sunday’s game-winner.
He got plenty of help from his teammates. Joe Wieskamp fired in 21 points for the Hawkeyes (19-5, 8-5 Big Ten), including a crucial 3-point field goal with Law in his face and a baseline drive in the final minutes.
“We just executed really well late game …’’ Wieskamp said. “For the most part we just kept fighting. That’s the biggest thing. We didn’t give up.’’
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Tyler Cook finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds and Isaiah Moss contributed 16 points.
Northwestern (12-11, 3-9 Big Ten) came into the game dead last in the Big Ten in field goal percentage, but the Wildcats ended up shooting a season-best 51.8 percent.
The Northwestern lead peaked at 72-57 with 4:30 remaining.
Cook said there was as much a sigh of relief when it was over as a celebration.
“We knew that team played well enough to win that game ...’’ he said. “We knew we kind of got away with one.’’
Northwestern coach Chris Collins figured his team panicked a little against the late pressure.
“Even still, the 3 Bohannon hit on the far side across from their bench (with 1:25 to go) was about 30 feet,’’ Collins said. “The 3 Wieskamp hit in front of their bench was a very difficult shot and then there was the last one. Three incredible 3s to win by one. You have to tip your hat to them for that.’’
Iowa’s next game is Saturday on the road at Rutgers. Game time is 5 p.m. with television coverage provided by FS1.
BAER HURT: Bettendorf’s Nicholas Baer left Sunday’s game with 3 minutes, 10 seconds remaining with an apparent injury. The senior went down to his knees in the backcourt, was bleeding from one ear and appeared a bit woozy as he walked off.
Iowa officials said there was no word on the severity of the injury.
Iowa 80, Northwestern 79
NORTHWESTERN (12-11) — Law 9-14 1-2 24, Benson 1-4 0-0 2, Pardon 4-8 5-8 13, Gaines 3-7 3-3 9, Taylor 6-11 2-2 16, Falzon 0-2 0-0 0, Kopp 0-0 0-0 0, Turner 6-8 2-3 15, Greer 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 29-56 13-18 79.
IOWA (19-5) — Garza 0-4 0-0 0, Cook 5-13 9-13 19, Wieskamp 7-10 4-4 21, Bohannon 5-9 2-2 15, Moss 6-12 2-2 16, N.Baer 1-3 1-2 3, Kriener 1-2 1-2 3, Dailey 0-0 0-0 0, McCaffery 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 26-55 19-25 80.
Halftime — Northwestern 41-35. 3-point goals — Northwestern 8-23 (Law 5-8, Taylor 2-7, Turner 1-2, Benson 0-1, Pardon 0-1, Falzon 0-2, Gaines 0-2), Iowa 9-17 (Bohannon 3-4, Wieskamp 3-5, Moss 2-3, McCaffery 1-2, N.Baer 0-1, Garza 0-2). Fouled out — none. Rebounds — Northwestern 34 (Law 10), Iowa 23 (Cook 11). Assists — Northwestern 13 (Taylor, Law 3), Iowa 13 (McCaffery 5). Total fouls — Northwestern 23, Iowa 15.