No. 8 Iowa 77, Wisconsin 73: Here's what we learned

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The final basketball game of the season at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was the most raucous yet.

In the end, it was a pair of players from 30 miles up the road that helped No. 8 Iowa pull out an intense 77-73 victory over Wisconsin on Sunday.

Freshman Keegan Murray alertly raced in to snare the rebound of a missed free throw, call timeout with his toes just inbounds and preserve a 71-71 tie in the waning seconds. That sequence led to Hawkeye senior Jordan Bohannon being fouled while attempting a 3-point shot. The graduate of Linn-Mar, a great free-throw shooter, made all three to put Iowa ahead for good in his last game in this arena.

Murray later sank two important free throws to help Iowa hold on, earning a series sweep of Wisconsin (16-11, 10-10 Big Ten Conference) and the No. 3 seed in the league tournament. That gives the Hawkeyes its first double-bye in that event, meaning they won't play until Friday evening in Indianapolis. That matchup could very well be against sixth-seeded Wisconsin.

And why not? Sunday's version of the border rivalry was heated, reminiscent of old-school Big Ten basketball.

Iowa senior Luka Garza scored 21 points, with 16 rebounds, in his 63rd and final game at CHA. Afterward, Hawkeye athletic director took to the court to announce that Garza's No. 55 will be retired when the season is over.

Bohannon had 16 points and eight assists.

Murray contributed 13 points and three blocked shots off the bench.

Iowa (20-7, 14-6) needed all of that to win a seventh game in its last eight heading into the postseason.

The final eight minutes were the most intense of the season at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The teams traded baskets, fouls, body blows, blowups at the referees, anything to get an edge that never seemed to come. Neither team gave an inch, so neither pulled away until the final horn.

Iowa center Luka Garza (55) catches a pass as Wisconsin forward Micah Potter (11) defends during a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game, Sunday, March 7, 2021, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Here's what we learned:

WIESKAMP’S HOT START ENDS WITH INJURY CONCERN: Joe Wieskamp was the best player on the court, by far, in the game’s opening 10 minutes. He made all five of his shots, none of them even touching the rim, and was active in contesting Wisconsin 3-pointers. He added a terrific assist on a Keegan Murray basket. And then he created a vacuum of noise inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena when he fell to the court and rocked back and forth clutching at his ankle in obvious distress. Wieskamp was helped by two people off the court and into the trainer’s room, limping heavily. He did not return to the bench area in the first half. Meanwhile, concern for their teammate seemed to affect the Hawkeyes, who watched the Badgers rally briefly, before 3-pointers from Luka Garza and CJ Fredrick restored a nine-point advantage. It was clear at that moment, that no matter the outcome of the game, Wieskamp’s health status would be the most important thing to monitor. Wieskamp, a junior, also may have been making his CHA swan song, with a professional future looming. But before then comes two very important March tournaments for the Hawkeyes, and you know he would dearly love to be a full participant in those. He was in a walking boot when the second half began, ending his afternoon with 12 points.

GARZA VS. POTTER IS TERRIFIC THEATER: Garza and Wisconsin center Micah Potter may collide one more time in Indianapolis. If not, Sunday’s game was a fitting end to a fantastic matchup between two post players who can be effective inside or outside. They went after each other with relish, and within the boundaries of fair play, battling for position down low, trading 3-pointers out top. Garza had 11 points and nine rebounds by halftime, playing 18 physically draining minutes. Potter, who comes off the Wisconsin bench, countered with 10 points while playing only 11 minutes so that he could preserve his energy to give Garza his best. Garza is the bigger star, no doubt, but Potter clearly saves his best for games when he gets to face the best. It’s Big Ten basketball at its finest.

WISCONSIN MAKES RUN, YOUNG HAWKEYES GET CALL: With Wieskamp sidelined, Wisconsin went on the attack from the beginning of the second half, eating into a nine-point deficit and taking a pair of one-point leads in the opening 12 minutes to set up a tight, terrific finish. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery turned to sophomore Joe Toussaint and freshman Keegan Murray to counter the aggressive Badger offense, and got results. Toussaint's quickness and Murray's length helped restore order. Toussaint even chipped in some strong offense, playing point guard and moving Jordan Bohannon to the shooting guard spot. Iowa's strength is its veteran experience in Garza, Bohannon, Connor McCaffery and Wieskamp. But those young players will need to be able to change tempo when called upon if the Hawkeyes are to reach their full potential in the tournaments.

Iowa next plays Friday at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, vs. either xx or xx.

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.