MADISON, Wis. — The last time the Iowa basketball team played in the Kohl Center, its starting center poked a couple of players in the eye.
This time, the Hawkeyes just hauled off and punched the entire Wisconsin team in the gut.
Jordan Bohannon drilled a game-winning 3-point field goal with 9 seconds remaining as Iowa overcame a 9-point deficit in the final four minutes Thursday night to effectively remove Wisconsin from Big Ten title contention with a 59-57 victory at the Kohl Center.
The win greatly enhances the Hawkeyes’ post-season prospects and hands the outright Big Ten crown to Purdue, which had a one-game lead over Wisconsin coming in.
Wisconsin (22-7, 10-7 Big Ten) smothered Iowa for most of the second half and had a 56-47 lead with just under four minutes to go. But it scored just one point the rest of the way and seemed to panic on its home court when confronted with some pressure defense in the final minutes.
Former Rockridge star Ethan Happ left the door open when he missed two free throws with the Badgers leading 57-56 and 30.5 seconds remaining.
Iowa’s Peter Jok then missed a 12-foot jumper at the other end, but Cordell Pemsl grabbed the rebound and alertly pitched it back to Bohannon.
The freshman point guard, who had two older brothers who played at Wisconsin, knocked down his third 3-pointer of the game to give the Hawkeyes the lead.
“I can’t tell you how many weeknights I made the trip up here to see my brothers play,’’ said Bohannon, noting that “we were pretty much a Wisconsin family growing up’’ and that he felt very comfortable playing in the Kohl Center.
“This game kind of meant more to me,’’ he added. “I was overlooked in the recruiting process. A lot of people doubted me, but Coach (Fran) McCaffery believed in me.’’
Wisconsin still had time to counter after the shot. Bronson Koenig, who led both teams with 19 points, missed a quick jumper at the other end and Nicholas Baer snared the rebound. There still was time left on the clock but the Badgers seemed too stunned to react.
“We probably didn’t defend that last play as great …’’ Baer said with a smile. “He (Koenig) pulled up for two and was a little short so I went and got the ball. I thought they might foul me right away. I just dribbled it out and no one was coming.’’
Bohannon, who made eight 3-point field goals last Saturday at Maryland and had 11 points Thursday, admitted it might have been the most open shot he had all night.
“Any time Jordan’s got space from three, I think it’s probably going to be good no matter what the situation it is, maybe even more so in that situation,’’ Baer said.
“That was big time, especially for a freshman,’’ Jok added. “He’s been shooting like that. He’s not afraid to take big shots in any game.’’
Baer matched a career high with four 3-pointers and scored a season-high 14 points to help Iowa build a 7-point halftime lead.
Wisconsin opened a modest 23-17 lead early in the game, thanks largely to the 3-point shooting of Koenig and the interior work of Happ, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
But then the Badgers hit a cold spell in which they did not score for 6 minutes, 32 seconds. They went 0 for 6 from the field in that stretch and committed four turnovers. Iowa responded with a spree of 12 straight points, including a pair of 3-pointers by Baer.
McCaffery noted that his team got eight consecutive defensive stops in that run and later had six in a row with the game on the line.
“I felt we were pretty connected defensively, which you have to be to play this team,’’ he said. “(Wisconsin) has got so many different weapons.’’
Koenig finally ended the drought by scoring on a drive with 37 seconds left in the half, but Baer knocked down his fourth straight 3 in the final seconds to make it 32-25.
Wisconsin put the clamps on the Hawkeyes after halftime, holding them just four points over a decisive 11-minute stretch. A 10-2 run allowed them to take the lead and the Badgers twice got the margin up to nine points, the last time at 56-47.
Then they fell apart.
Zak Showalter made one free throw with 3:12 to go after Jok was called for a flagrant foul, making it 57-52. The foul initially was called on Showalter and Jok had already made one free throw when the officials decided to look at the video and subsequently also slapped the Iowa star with a foul.
“We really came together and wanted to win after that,’’ Jok said. “I think that was momentum for us.’’
Both teams struggled to score in the next minute or two, but Bohannon dropped in a floater with 1:43 remaining and Ahmad Wagner scored after getting a steal on the press to make it 57-56 with 1:35 to go.
Bohannon missed a 3-pointer in the final minute with Happ rebounding and the sophomore center was immediately fouled by Pemsl with 30.5 seconds left. Happ, who made just 1 of 7 foul shots in the game to drop his season percentage to 47.9, missed both shots.
“He feels awful about it,’’ Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “I feel bad for him … He just hasn’t been able to make the progress he needs to make with (free throw shooting).’’
The Wisconsin players, including four senior starters, were understandably disconsolate after the game.
“We’re a real spurty team right now, if that’s a word,’’ said Nigel Hayes, who scored 10 points but also had five turnovers. “We’ll play well for five minutes and then we won’t do anything for five minutes.’’