IOWA CITY, Iowa — Standing in a crowded hallway against a bare, white wall Friday night inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, junior forward De’Ron Davis and freshman guard Rob Phinisee were asked if IU men’s basketball is cursed.
The question came in the aftermath of IU’s 76-70 overtime loss at No. 21 Iowa, a game which featured the defining elements of the 2018-19 season.
Context for the question was provided by Iowa junior guard Jordan Bohannon, who made the kind of shots — first to tie the game with 28 seconds left in regulation and then in the latter stages of overtime to virtually win the game — that left IU players and coaches without solutions.
“That’s just what he does,” Davis said. “We were on him all game, then those last five minutes he just went kind of crazy.”
“You can’t really do anything about it,” Phinisee said.
“Once a guy like that makes one, you’re sort of at his mercy,” IU Coach Archie Miller said.
Makeshift lineups due to key players in foul trouble, late-game execution gone awry and simple bad luck all plagued the Hoosiers and sent them spiraling to a 12th loss in 13 games, shredding any semblance of postseason basketball as a possibility.
Davis has been through similar situations before.
Having been at IU during the end of Tom Crean's time as coach, and here now during the painful beginning to Miller’s tenure, how did Davis react to the question about being cursed?
He was brief, then he chuckled.
“It’s Indiana,” he said.
It took a while, until almost midway through the second half, for Bohannon to get his 3-point shots to fall. But his off-balance and outrageous efforts were the work of one of the conference’s most effective perimeter shooters.
“I thought our defense on him was great,” Miller said.
Bohannon’s late-game barrage of points quickly undid a litany of positives for IU.
It negated IU’s positive starts to both the first and second halves. The Hoosiers established an 8-0 lead to start the game, and then a six-point lead in the second period after it entered halftime tied at 28.
Redshirt senior forward Evan Fitzner, who had his best game since November with 11 points, had his surprise performance ruled irrelevant.
The same could be said for IU’s entire bench, which had a rare advantage in points, 18-14, against the opponent. Scoring was there for IU as well, with five players recording double-figure point totals for the first time since the team's Feb. 2 win at Michigan State.
“I feel bad for them,” Miller said of his players. “Everybody does at this time of year.”
While the first question of his media conference after the game was asked aloud, Miller was detached.
His hands were placed horizontally against each other, and he furiously slapped them together, staring at the opposite side of the room while rattling the table he sat at and the Dasani water bottle perched on top of it.
About eight seconds passed. Then, Miller reentered reality.
“You gotta make your breaks,” he said. “You gotta make your breaks, man."
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