The Iowa center said all is not lost after a 67-59 loss to Wisconsin. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa’s first home loss in 377 days left a mark. It’s now up to the Hawkeye players whether it becomes permanent.
Wisconsin extended its winning streak over No. 8 Iowa to six games, finishing strong for a 67-59 victory to stun a sold-out crowd of 15,400 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The loss was Iowa’s third in four games, dropping the Hawkeyes (20-7, 11-4) a full game back of Indiana (22-6, 12-3) in the Big Ten Conference title chase with three to go. Iowa can still at least share its first regular-season league crown in 37 years by winning its final three games, but now there’s no margin for error.
“We’re the same team that beat Marquette, the same team that beat Michigan State,” said center Adam Woodbury, who had a near-heroic effort of 18 career-high rebounds (10 offensive) to keep Iowa in the fight to the finish. “Some days, you don’t have it. We’ve got to be better.”
Wisconsin seemed to score in 3s — from behind the arc and on traditional 3-point plays — to do what it has done in recent history against Iowa: grind out a nail-biting win.
“To be able to play and answer them punch for punch, so to speak,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said, “showed maturity from our guys.”
Iowa, meanwhile, couldn’t shoot straight — a season-worst 32.7 percent — and scored just eight points in the final 10:20.
The Badgers canned 10 of 23 3-pointers, none bigger Nigel Hayes’ deep ball with 1 minute, 42 seconds remaining that pushed the lead to 62-58. Bronson Koenig’s corner 3 with 4:50 left had been the initial back-breaker, one that gave Wisconsin a 59-56 lead that it would keep the rest of the way.
“They hit timely 3s and we didn’t is really what it comes down to,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
And now the Badgers (18-10, 10-5) have joined a lot of teams not only in the Big Ten hunt but for a top-four seed and double bye at the conference tournament March 9-13 in Indianapolis.
There are eight teams with six or fewer conference losses, including Iowa’s Sunday road opponent, Ohio State (18-11, 10-6).
“It shouldn’t be hard (to respond). We’re playing on CBS. It’s a great opportunity,” McCaffery said. “We haven’t played well in the last two games, yet we have done some good things in those two games.”
Koenig led Wisconsin, which shot 48 percent, with 15 points. Peter Jok’s 21 points paced Iowa, which had a 16-game winning streak at Carver-Hawkeye (dating to Feb. 12, 2015) snapped.
But Jok was held to just four points on 1-of-6 shooting in the second half, symbolizing Iowa’s cold night.
“I think Pete got tired a little bit,” McCaffery said. “I think they were up into us a little bit.”
The Hawkeyes were probably lucky to only be down 35-34 at halftime. Jok almost single-handedly helped Iowa overcome eight turnovers and foul trouble for Jarrod Uthoff in the first half.
Jok scored 17 of Iowa’s final 22 points of the first half, sinking 3-of-4 3-pointers and using his aggressiveness to draw fouls and make six free throws. But the Hawkeyes were extraordinarily sloppy, with several ugly throwaways. Wisconsin, generally a 43-percent shooting team, took advantage by shooting 52 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
The Hawkeyes survived the final 6:31 of the half after Uthoff, the Big Ten’s No. 2 scorer coming in, went to the bench with his second foul in a 25-all game.
The Iowa guard thought defense lost this game against Wisconsin.
A big storyline coming into this one was how Uthoff would fare in his final attempt to slay his former team. The 6-foot-9 forward entered with an 0-4 on-court record against the Badgers, whom he signed with out of Cedar Rapids Jefferson.
Wisconsin held him to only two shot attempts in his limited first half of action, and none after his deep 3-pointer gave Iowa a 5-0 lead just 1:36 into the game.
That changed immediately in the second half. He charged to the basket on Iowa’s first possession and was fouled, then made both free throws. Two possessions later, he powered in a step-back 3 from about 27 feet as the shot clock expired for a 41-35 Hawkeye lead. But he got into more foul trouble after that and finished with 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting in just 23 minutes.
Uthoff and Jok were requested for postgame interviews, but neither appeared.
“We’re not a one-man team,” Woodbury said. “We’ve got to be able to score when (Uthoff’s) on the bench. He doesn’t play 40 minutes a night.”
Iowa’s lead was 51-45 on Anthony Clemmons’ bucket with 10:20 to play until back-to-back 3s by Hayes and Koenig tied it. Then Khalil Iverson’s ridiculous two-handed dunk sent Wisconsin to a 53-51 lead going into the under-8:00 timeout.
The Badgers owned the game from there.