Wisconsin blitzed Iowa early, then held the Hawkeyes at an arm's length for the rest of the game, winning at Carver-Hawkeye Arena 74-63 in front of a sold-out crowd. Frank Kaminsky led all scorers with 20 points.
Let's be clear: Wisconsin's really, really good at basketball. Duh, they're the No. 5 team in the nation, but the Badgers are superlative in nearly every facet of the game. They can shoot, defend, rebound, get to loose balls and otherwise take care of business, to the point that it takes a similarly brilliant game for an opponent to even keep up. Iowa just didn't do that.
The mood was salty in the arena to begin with, seeing as how NOTED IOWA HATERRRR Dan Dakich was on hand to call the game, but the fans' ire quickly turned to the officials after a series of 50/50 calls seemed to go more Wisconsin's way. Compounding that frustration, though, was Iowa's inability to get a push going at any point. And it's not like the opportunities weren't there; Wisconsin started out red-hot with 32 points in 16 possessions, but the Badgers cooled way off after that, scoring only 32 points in the second half. Iowa just couldn't get to loose balls, couldn't hit free throws with any regularity until the game was out of reach, couldn't mount a serious charge at any point in the second half. After another missed free throw late in the game (Iowa finished a mediocre 11-for-18 from the line, way off the Hawkeyes' usually stellar pace), Dakich called the buzz in the arena "bad vibes." He wasn't wrong. The frustration was as palpable as it was persistent.
Aaron White's shoulder is fine—or, if it's not 100%, it's not seriously affecting his play. He worked his butt off on both ends of the court, but despite leading the team in scoring, 15 points in 38 minutes is not stellar. Also, 3-for-6 at the line, including making only one of his first four attempts, is a bad way to punish Wisconsin for its fouls and get the tide back on Iowa's side. If that's how tides work. It's probably not.
Jarrod Uthoff could have been more aggressive. He didn't make a lot of the opportunities he got on offense, finishing 3-for-9 from the field for just nine points, but... do you really want Mike Gesell taking more shots than Uthoff? Gesell was fine again—certainly, he's playing at a higher level than the first half of the season—but he probably should not be the second option on a tourney-quality offense.
Wisconsin finished with 15 offensive rebounds on 32 chances. Iowa, just seven on 27. Allowing a team that can shoot the lights out like the Badgers a second chance on nearly half of its missed shots is a recipe for disaster, and Wisconsin took advantage of the opportunities Iowa allowed it. The Badgers were happy to take contested threes as well, and enough of them went in that it almost seemed like it didn't matter what Iowa did on defense. When you pressure someone into along, iso, contested, late-clock jumper and it goes in, well, what else are you supposed to do?
The answer, of course, is to limit those opportunities to begin with and to take care of business where you have a little more control over the outcome: on offense. Iowa couldn't keep Wisconsin off the glass early on, but it was downright dominant, especially in the paint, in the early going; at one point Iowa was 8-for-9 from the field, and almost all of those shots came close to the glass. Wisconsin tightened up its post defense as the game went on, but just as readily Adam Woodbury disappeared from the offense, and nobody bothered to take his place. When Iowa's settling for jumpers, bad things happen, and Iowa's offensive production was a Bad Thing on Saturday.
When it's time to look back on the Hawkeyes' season, a double-digit loss to a legit top-5 team probably won't be the biggest regret. But Wisconsin wasn't capital-G Great this afternoon, and if Iowa had played a great game it had a plausible chance at a win. Alas.