It certainly wasn’t pretty for either team for the full 40 minutes, and was clear from the onset that it had been barely a week since the last matchup between these two teams — things were as tight as can be, with both teams looking familiar with the other’s sets and neither team jumping out to an early advantage.
This was not two teams feeling each other out, it was two rival teams, both eminently familiar with the other and barely a week removed from a close matchup, back at it once again, with the loser going ‘home’ (to their hotel).
But Iowa scraped by to get the win despite shooting 2/20 from deep. A big reason why? Defense, particularly blocks. The team had 10 total team blocks, including a crucial, game-sealing block from Joe Wieskamp with 19 seconds remaining as part of his late-game takeover. Luka Garza led all scorers with 24 points, and added on 9 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 assists. Wieskamp had a quiet first half but was crucial down the stretch to the tune of 10 points, 7 rebounds, the aforementioned block, and an assist. Jordan Bohannon rounded out Iowa’s double-digit scoring with 11, mostly coming from the free throw line, and joining C.J. Fredrick as Iowa’s lone 3-point scorers.
Garza had 10 of Iowa’s first 16 points, and yet it was still a 5-point game at 16-11 with after 7:30 of gameplay, despite the 11-4 scoring run that put them in that position.
Back-to-back threes from Brad Davison were a crucial component as Wisconsin went on an 8-0 run to take back the lead at 19-18, before Iowa responded immediately with a basket to end its drought. Iowa went 0/10 in its attempts from beyond the arc in the first half, clogging up the offense, and Wisconsin took advantage. Iowa’s offense sputtered out and turnovers mounted as part of Wisconsin’s 21-8 run, taking a 32-26 lead into the half, with Iowa ending the half not scoring a field goal in over three minutes.
The second half started much like the first half ended for Iowa, with decent looks just rimming out and Wisconsin maintaining its six-point lead early, before Bohannon hit Iowa’s first 3-pointer of the game with 16:50 left in the game. Neither team was shooting efficiently, which worked to Iowa’s advantage as Bohannon’s solo 5-0 run brought Iowa back within 1. Fredrick came alive from there, scoring a quick five points, but still, Iowa couldn’t take back the lead until a Garza outback with 10:50 remaining in the game.
From there, the teams traded leads, with Iowa taking a 52-48 lead with 6 minutes left in the game as Wisconsin took its turn having a scoring drought. And yet, Iowa couldn’t blow the lead open, and things stayed close as the clock ticked closer to zeroes. A big reason why this game stayed so close? Iowa’s 2/19 shooting from deep.
Despite no field goals from the Badgers for over eight minutes, Wieskamp played a crucial role in giving Iowa back a 4-point lead — as well as helping them maintain it on the defensive end with a huge block with 19 seconds left to effectively seal the deal, especially since it was immediately followed by a Wisconsin turnover off the inbounds play.
Bohannon went to the line on the ensuing possession, making both and getting Iowa a 6-point lead, but Trice came back and hit a 3 to cut the lead in half with 11 seconds remaining. Iowa once again got the ball back to Bohannon, who hit both free throws once again. The game ended in weird, only Big Ten fashion as Joe Wieskamp missed the front-end of a 1-1, but the ball bounced off the rim and back into his hands, but the shot clock operator did not start the clock, giving Iowa a ‘walk off’ win against the Badgers, sending them to the semifinals.
Up next, a tough challenge in Illinois but for now, WALK OFF BABY.