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Iowa 77, Wisconsin 73: EXHALE

Iowa loses Joe Wieskamp early but narrowly escapes the Wisconsin Badgers to earn the 3-seed in the Big Ten Tournament

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes suffered a massive blow on Sunday as a scorching hot Joe Wieskamp rolled his ankle early in the first half, which played a key role in a potential blow-out win against the Wisconsin Badgers turning into a sloppy, back-and-forth, review heavy, 77-73 gutsy win for the Hawkeyes on Senior Day in Carver Hawkeye Arena.

Wieskamp’s continuation of his scorching-hot late season shooting was the early story, with the junior logging 12 points on a 5-5 start (and finish, sadly) from the field that helped the Hawkeyes get out to its early 20-9 lead.

Disaster struck with 8 minutes left in the first half, as Wieskamp rolled his ankle stepping onto Tyler Wahl’s foot and collapsed, limping heavily off the floor. Without him, it was up to Luka Garza, Jordan Bohannon and Keegan Murray to carry the load, and they did on both ends of the floor and on the free throw line to notch out an ugly, ugly win. Garza finished the day with 21 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks, while Bohannon tallied 16, the biggest of which came at the line, where he went 5-5. Murray, on the other hand, was a force in the extended minutes, scoring 13 points on 3-4 from the free throw line, 6 rebounds (including a huge offensive rebound off a late FT miss), and 3 blocks.

Without Wieskamp, what seemed like a dead-in-the-water Wisconsin finally woke up, including from beyond the arc, and suddenly Iowa’s double-digit lead was down to 23-20 with just over five minutes left in the half. But the Hawkeyes responded, getting off two quick 3-pointers, one from Garza and the second from Frederick coming off an insanely smooth step-back into the corner. The end of the first half got a bit convoluted with a hook-and-hold review involving Garza (shocker), but the Hawks ended the half up 35-26.

With the announcement made over halftime that Wieskamp would not return (he was seen in a boot, hopefully it’s precautionary), Murray got the start for the second half, and Bohannon picked things up for him from deep, scoring his first points of the game from deep on Iowa’s first offensive possession of the half.

On the Wieskamp front, there was at least this nugget of information from Cody Hills on Twitter:

From there, Iowa maintained a double-digit cushion for the first few minutes of the half, but with 15:30 left in the game, Wisconsin cut the lead down to five at 42-37, thanks to a 7-0 Badger run, and quickly, the game was tied at 46 with 12:30 to go, before the Badgers took the lead with 11:50 to go with a shot from deep.

But who else but Garza and Bohannon came through when their squad needed them most, scoring big buckets and Garza getting a key block to take back the lead, before Wisconsin brought it back again, knotting things up at 56 at the 8-minute media timeout. The score was locked there for the next two minutes before Wisconsin broke the drought, but Iowa responded right away with a Murray floater to knot things right back up at 58.

Whether it was the unexpected shock of losing Wieskamp so early in a game he was setting up to dominate, or a glimpse of the future without him, watching Iowa play without Wieskamp was like a clogged pipe. The passing lanes were closed off, the ball movement fell off, and it felt like we were watching an Iowa team operating at a more greatly reduced capacity than it seemed when Frederick missed time with his own injury.

It seemed like this game was slipping away from Iowa as Wisconsin continued to make what seemed like every big basket, getting the lead up to as much as five late, but Garza, Bohannon and Murray played heroes and kept things within reach, making it a 69-68 Wisconsin lead with 2 minutes to go.

A Bohannon rainbow bounced off the rim, Trice missed his own 3 on the other end with Bohannon grabbing the rebound, and forcing his way to the charity stripe, where he hit both to give Iowa back a 1-point lead. Wisconsin took back the lead on a questionable flopping foul on the other end, but Connor McCaffery found his way to the line on the other end. He went 1-2, but Murray was able to grab the rebound and call for a huge timeout. Trice fouled out on a Bohannon 3-pointer, the veteran gave Iowa a nice 3-point cushion.

Things got weird under 30 seconds left, when a double foul was called, one a flagrant and one a hook-and-hold. Both teams got free throws — which Wisconsin and Iowa both converted — and Iowa got the ball back, up 76-73. And yet, another questionable call ensued, Wisconsin got the ball back, but missed its game-tying three before a possession question went under review, with the possession arrow favoring Iowa after a lengthy review.

With 10 seconds let, Iowa threw a Hail Mary pass half court to Frederick, who was fouled and made 1-1 free throw, but Wisconsin couldn’t make the ensuing 3, and Iowa escaped with a win.

Up next for the Hawks is the Big Ten Tournament, where they’re the No. 3 seed with a double bye and a potential rematch against the No. 6. seed Badgers a possibility. It remains to be seen whether we’ll see Wieskamp on Friday or at all, but if Wisconsin is the matchup, at least we know that the team is capable of pulling a win out of thin air without him.

To top off the win, mere minutes after the regular season concluded, the team’s Twitter account dropped an unsurprising revelation: we just witnessed the last time a player will wear No. 55 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena:

No matter what happens in the postseason, and despite the loftiest goals of Hawkeye fans not being met, we watched an incredible season from Garza, and it’s something we’ll need to cherish.