Iowa 62, Wisconsin 57: Here's what we learned
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A veteran Iowa men's basketball team that has been aiming for a victory March all season began the process Friday with a game against a wily Wisconsin squad that knew how to make things muddy.
The Hawkeyes pulled out a 62-57 victory in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals at Lucas Oil Stadium by showing that they could handle the Badgers' pace. Whatever it took, Iowa was able to execute.
Junior wing player Joe Wieskamp drove for two big baskets to break a 52-52 tie and put the Hawkeyes ahead to stay. Senior point guard Jordan Bohannon took his defender to the rim seconds later. The duo combined for a steal. Wieskamp swatted away a Badgers shot.
No one said it had to be pretty. Iowa beat Wisconsin for a third time this season to advance to the semifinals for the first time in Fran McCaffery's 11 years as coach. Awaiting the Hawkeyes will be another border rival, Illinois, at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Iowa senior center Luka Garza led the way, scoring 18 of his 24 points in the first half. Bohannon finished with 11 points and Wieskamp 10.
Iowa (21-7) has won eight of its last nine games. Illinois won the lone regular-season matchup and is coming off a 90-68 blowout victory over Rutgers.
The game will be shown on CBS, after the Michigan-Ohio State semifinal.
Here’s what we learned:
Iowa controlled the rim at both ends
Iowa isn't known as a great shot-blocking team. But the Hawkeyes kept swatting away Wisconsin shots, 10 of them in all. Luka Garza had four of them, Keegan Murray three and Patrick McCaffery another two. Iowa coupled that rim-protection with an excellent effort on the offensive glass, grabbing 12 of their missed shots. That is why Iowa outscored Wisconsin 38-20 in the paint, which was vital since the Hawkeyes struggled to make 3-pointers.
Joe Wieskamp returns, but Iowa goes cold from 3-point range
The Hawkeyes got good news this week when Wieskamp’s right ankle injury proved to be minor. He was in the starting lineup as usual and was moving fluidly. He scored an early basket on a strong drive. But he made only one more in the first half, and couldn’t help Iowa’s unusually cold shooting. Each Hawkeye starter attempted two 3-pointers in the opening half; none of them were successful. Iowa’s offense ran exclusively through all-American center Garza, and he responded with 18 first-half points. All of them were necessary as the Hawkeyes trailed 32-26 at intermission. Bohannon and CJ Fredrick did each make a 3-pointer after intermission, but Iowa still finished 2-for-20 from deep.
Iowa was out of sorts early
Another sign that Iowa’s offense wasn’t humming was this startling first-half statistic: six assists and eight turnovers. Even sophomore shooting guard Fredrick committed two of the turnovers, his first in months. The Hawkeyes sputtered at the end of the half, failing to score on six consecutive possessions. The last of them told the story. With 3.8 seconds left, backup point guard Joe Toussaint dribbled into the lane, and slipped to the floor while the basketball sailed harmlessly out of bounds. It was that kind of half for Iowa, which happily headed to its locker room for a chance to regroup.
And that's what happened. Iowa had 12 assists and no turnovers in the second half, as the offense got smoother.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.