The Iowa Hawkeyes’ (17-11, 9-8) road woes continued in a 64-52 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers (16-11, 8-9), shooting 32.3% from the field and a dire 3/28 from three. Tony Perkins & Filip Rebrača each had 13, while Payton Sandfort had 10. While the Hawkeye defense was probably good enough on the whole, Wisconsin outscored Iowa in the paint 38-32 on 21/30 shooting from 2.
The Hawks really couldn’t have asked for a better start, as they raced to a 10-4 lead ahead of the under-16:00 timeout. The press had the Badgers out of sorts early, as Kris Murray found Ahron Ulis after stealing the inbound pass. It was 13 seconds after Rebrača hook shot and put Iowa up six early.
Wisconsin matched their season average for turnovers with eight in the first half, with five happening in the first five minutes, including an offensive foul on Steven Crowl, his second. At that point, he had Wisconsin’s only two baskets. Iowa was able to convert their first half turnovers into 11 of their 26 points.
Unfortunately, Murray joined Crowl in two-foul jail and Iowa’s offense continued to sputter, picking up from where it left off in Evanston. The Hawkeyes missed their first six three pointers before a Payton Sandfort jumper went through the net which regained the lead at 20-19. The unfortunate news was Wisconsin’s only three of the half came right after it from Connor Essegian.
Iowa’s stagnant offense allowed the Badgers to get the lead, though it never exceeded four. Tyler Wahl made his first four baskets lead all players, alongside Sandfort, with 8 points. A microcosm of the Hawkeyes’ half was Connor McCaffery notching two turnovers in quick succession, his first in two-plus games after 18 assists.
The Hawks got back into a rhythm out of the gates of the second half, making their first three baskets including a couple Rebrača baskets. He assisted on Murray’s first basket of the game to get Iowa a 35-34. Iowa was able to notch another basket to go up three but the two straight baskets from Bucky, the second which featured a Tony Perkins flop call, though Essegian missed the freebie on the other end.
It signaled a turn in momentum for the game, as Wisconsin outscored the Hawkeyes 19-8 to build a then-high 12-point lead. The Badgers opened the stretch with three straight 3s while Iowa couldn’t buy a basket on the other end, missing eight straight from the field at one point.
Editorializing: I just hate when Iowa loses to Wisconsin. More than anything in sports. Every win the Badgers get playing horrible basketball just feels like an affront to a game which can be beautiful to watch.
Anyways, it feels like the sky is falling a bit but it’s tricky to win on the road, especially so for Iowa this season. Wisconsin is a desperate team, looking to play their way back into the NCAA Tournament field. But games aren’t played at home in March and Iowa needs to figure out offense which it can sustain without the three dropping. Normally, that means a team’s star can be relied on in especially tough times but Kris Murray struggled tonight with just 5 points on 2/10 shooting.
Additionally, Iowa hasn’t had a particularly rough schedule in terms of multiple games in a week, it’s also worth wondering if the shorter rotation Fran McCaffery has rolled out has resulted in fatigue which is impacting Iowa’s jumpers.
The good news, if any, is that Iowa has three nights at home to regain their legs and find their shot at home, where the splits are much more favorable. They’ll face a Michigan State squad coming off an emotional win.