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No. 21 Wisconsin 65, Iowa 45: March Sadness

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Is this rock bottom?

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The winter months have not been kind to the Iowa Hawkeyes, and tonight was no except as the Hawkeyes fell to the No. 21 Wisconsin Badgers, 65-45.

A back-and-forth game early turned into Wisconsin managing a 6+ point lead for the last 10 minutes of the first half. And instead of showing resolve, the Hawkeyes didn’t show up for the second half and let the Badger lead blossom to as much as 23 points. Iowa has now lost three games in a row, and four of its last six at the worst possible time.

Iowa had zero players score in double digits. Jordan Bohannon and Ryan Kriener came closest with eight, followed by Luka Garza and Nicholas Baer with six. Joe Wieskamp added five. Tyler Cook’s only positive numbers in the stat column came in the rebound department, where he grabbed seven. As a team, the Hawkeyes shot a whopping 29% overall and 19% from deep.

For the Badgers, meanwhile, the seniors were out in full force. Ethan Happ dropped 21 points on 5-11 shooting and an astonishing 10-17 from the free throw line. In addition to Happ, fellow senior Khalil Iverson tallied a double-double with 11 points and rebounds apiece.

Iverson got things going in the game with a vicious dunk that, in hindsight, was great foreshadowing for the rest of the game. The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, started the game off with four empty possessions, with two turnovers and two bad shots, also foreshadowing of how the rest of the game would go.

But Bohannon got going with an early three pointer. Joining him in the early scoring column was Isaiah Moss, and Iowa entered the first media timeout up 5-4. Both teams battled from there, with Wisconsin taking a four point lead at most. Neither team could create consistent offense and

The Badgers dominate the glass and second chance points, and it was a big reason why they were able to jump out to an 18-13 lead with 8:31 left in the half. Iowa’s turnovers, combined with their attempt to take quick shots made it seem like the Hawkeyes had gone forever without a basket.

Garza, Kriener and Baer all had foul trouble in the first half to go along with all of the turnovers. Wisconsin took advantage, getting up by as many as nine thanks in part to a strong performance at the charity stripe. A late Wieskamp three got the Wisconsin lead down to 6, but the Hawkeyes entered the half facing a nine point deficit, 31-22.

The second half started as the first half began: an Iowa miss and a Wisconsin dunk. But instead of clamping down on defense, Iowa let Wisconsin get to the basket with ease and maintain a double-digit lead.

Iowa, frankly, died after Wisconsin was able to hold its 10+ point lead. The Badgers just continued to put on points, while a combination of solid Wisconsin defense and bad looks doomed Iowa.

The dagger occurred immediately after Iowa called a timeout down 18. Iowa turned the ball over on its ensuing possession, and Brad Davison found a streaking Brevin Pritzl who killed the Hawkeyes with an emphatic dunk.

Cue another Iowa timeout, and Cook was immediately called for his fourth timeout, with zero points. It didn’t get prettier from there. Wisconsin’s lead simply continued to grow, and Iowa quit.

So, what now? This is rock bottom. The last time this team played a strong game of basketball, they hosed the Michigan Wolverines. Ever since then, it’s been bad losses and miracle shots for wins. Where does this team go from here? If they lose to Nebraska on Sunday, and have an early exit from the Big Ten Tournament, is the NCAA Tournament out of the question?

This loss (or the Rutgers loss, for that matter) are not the direct result of Fran McCaffery’s suspension. This is a team playing like a shell of itself, and it’s valid to question if they’re trying at this point. I’m not a Fran apologist by any means, but one would think that a team would play with a little more heart than it displayed these last two games with its coach suspended.

We’ve seen this story before from Iowa basketball late in the season. Can they turn things around? Of course. But if you’ve seen anything from these last three games that convinces you that this team is trending anywhere but down, please let me know.

I certainly haven’t seen anything.