Wisconsin hits big shots late to hand Iowa its first loss

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — This was old-fashioned Big Ten Conference basketball.

Bodies colliding on the court. A capacity crowd crackling with electricity every time the home team scored; only to sound like a vacuum cleaner being unplugged every time the visitors answered.

Very little separated Iowa and Wisconsin on Friday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in their conference opener.

Iowa forward Tyler Cook (25) makes a basket during a NCAA Big Ten Conference men's basketball game on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

In the end, it was Badger guards Brevin Pritzl and D'Mitrik Trice who found just enough separation to can a pair of key 3-pointers late. Wisconsin hung on to win 72-66, sending the Hawkeyes to their first loss of the season.

"We came out in the second half and we were able to jump out to a little bit of a lead. I think something that we need to learn to do is just bury teams when we have that opportunity," Iowa senior forward Nicholas Baer said. "There were multiple times when we were up eight with the ball and if you get a bucket there, it's double digits and it's a little bit of a different game."

The rematch comes March 7 in Madison.

Iowa got 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds from power forward Tyler Cook. The Hawkeyes got big shots from Jordan Bohannon, Nicholas Baer, Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp.

But none of them were enough to put away the Badgers. Trice finished with 20 points. Pritzl had 12.

Wisconsin star Ethan Happ fouled out with 13 hard-earned points.

"We've got a great team coming in here. They made plays and they won the game. They deserved it," Cook said. "You just want to come out and play hard every night and most of the time you'll live with the results."

This was a classic slugfest.

The first half was dominated by defense, with neither team able to build a lead larger than six points.

No. 15 Iowa (6-1) did an excellent job of clamping down on Wisconsin’s all-American center, Happ, sending double- and even triple-teams at him when he touched the ball in the paint. Happ was limited to four points in the first half.

No. 22 Wisconsin (7-1) countered by keeping the Hawkeye offense at a standstill. Cook scored 10 first-half points, but there was little flow to Iowa’s efforts, the ball frequently sticking in the hands of a lone Hawkeye.

Iowa made only 2-of-12 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes and was credited with a mere four assists on 11 made baskets. Neither did the Hawkeyes get to the free-throw line with regularity, something that had been a given in the first six games.

The halftime score, fittingly, was 27-27 as the two weary teams retreated to their locker rooms to try to figure out new plans of attack.

The passing got better at the beginning of the second half as Iowa got five quick assists and built an eight-point lead. Then the Badgers mucked things up again.

Iowa finished with nine assists and 12 turnovers. The Hawkeyes did make 14-of-19 free throws.

"I thought in the first half it was getting stuck a little too much. I thought in the second half it moved a lot better," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of his team's ball movement. 

"I think that's an important thing when you're playing Wisconsin. The ball's got to move. But then you're making decisions: Is this a good shot? And you can get 3-happy. And we got a little 3-happy."

Iowa finished 6-of-24 from the arc.

But it was the free looks that Pritzl and Trice buried that ended up being Iowa's undoing. Pritzl was 1-for-5 from the 3-point arc before nailing the biggest shot of the game with 1 minute, 35 seconds remaining and the Badgers trailing 61-60.

"We kept him on the floor because he didn't miss (Thursday) in practice. He was on fire," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said of Pritzl. "So I said we needed to get him more shots and he hit the big one there at the end."

Iowa next plays at No. 8 Michigan State at 5:30 p.m. Monday.