In a wire-to-wire victory, the Iowa Hawkeyes (11-11, 2-7) absolutely dominated the Wisconsin Badgers (10-11, 3-5) 85-67 for their only meeting of the season.
Save for the switch to the gold uniforms, the lead-up this game felt a lot like Saturday’s against Purdue, right down to the same announcing crew. After a stalemate jumpball Ethan Happ flipped to a teammate, it seemed like it would continue down the same path as Iowa’s loss to Purdue. It was not the case as Iowa looked like a completely different team.
The defense was crisp to open the game, the rebounding was tight, and the offense was assertive. Within the first 3 minutes, I counted three drives by Isaiah Moss which resulted in 4 points (on one layup and two free throws) on the way to a 9-0 lead.
Throughout the first half, Luka Garza looked like the highly-touted big man as he asserted his will with 7 points and 6 rebounds within the first nine minutes. His defense provided a foundation for Iowa to come at Happ from all angles and resulted an 0-4 start from Happ.
When Garza went out with 10:38 in the half, Iowa was up 21-9 points before the Wisconsin pace took hold. The Badgers clawed their way back into it to make it a four-point game with 1:20 left before Isaiah Moss ended the half how he began it. He scored on a fortuitous bounce from a corner three and the Hawkeyes caught a break when a layup eked out. Iowa was able to get a clean look for Moss in the lane for a basket as the clock ticked down to zero and went into the half up 9, 37-28.
It was an impressive first half, as the Hawkeyes were able to play clean basketball (only 4 turnovers) and didn’t settle for jumpers, as they went 14-18 on layups and two dunks.
It was more of the same in the second half, as Iowa continued their strong offensive - and defensive - play. Iowa was able to get two dunks from Tyler Cook on their first two possessions. After an offensive foul on Cordell Pemsl, forced by “Buzzcut” Brad Davison, Ethan Happ scored an easy basket to bring the game 41-32.
That was the closest it ever got.
Jordan Bohannon hit a quick jumper and sent Iowa on a 9-0 run and the rest was history.
In the spirit of overreaction, it was Iowa’s best game of the season. They put up 85 points on Wisconsin - the most, by 11, of Fran McCaffery’s tenure. Yes, this is a similarly flailing Badger bunch, but the Hawkeyes capitalized on it.
Luka Garza closed with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Tyler Cook, was able to amass the same amount of points before leaving with 9:20 left due to a lower leg injury. Jordan Bohannon and Isaiah Moss looked as confident as they have all season even though the shots weren’t dropping at a super high clip (10-24, 4-10 from 3 combined) because they were attacking the basket. Bohannon was able go 4-6 inside the arc and tallied 11 assists in 38 minutes of play. Nicholas Baer did Nicholas Baer things as his stat line really isn’t reflective of the floor game he played.
Ethan Happ closed with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 turnover and 3 steals before fouling out. He didn’t necessarily try to will his team to victory so much as display a complete lack of trust in his teammates as he tried to do everything. In his defense, his teammates are just barely better at shooting three pointers than him, which clogged the lane all night for the Badgers.
With Ryan Kriener and Brady Ellingson sidelined with concussions, Fran McCaffery was forced to tighten the rotation and we saw Ahmad Wagner and Cordell Pemsl get quality, extended minutes (14 and 29 respectively). Dailey added 12 minutes to make it essentially an 8-man rotation.
Hopefully Iowa can build on this into Lincoln for the weekend showdown against the Nebraska Cornhuskers but until then, let’s enjoy this victory.