IOWA CITY, Ia. — The first loss of the season stung the Iowa men’s basketball team Friday.
The Hawkeyes held the lead for 16 minutes and 31 seconds against Wisconsin before a sellout crowd of 15,056 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. They were up by a point with 96 seconds to play.
It was the No. 22 Badgers (7-1) who took advantage of three defensive lapses late to walk away with a 72-66 win in the Big Ten Conference opener. Hawkeye players knew there was no one else to blame as they dissected that fateful minute-and-a-half late into the evening. Their anguish was evident.
“We want to be playing in March. It’s November, so it’s nothing too much to worry about right now,” sophomore center Luka Garza said after his No. 15 Hawkeyes fell to 6-1 one month into the 2018-19 season. “But it’s a tough loss, a tough home game we should have locked down and won.”
Wisconsin made 16-of-31 shots (51.6 percent) and scored 45 points in the second half Friday. The final three shots the Badgers made were the difference between victory and defeat. Let’s break them down:
- Trailing 61-60, Wisconsin fed the ball to star center Ethan Happ in the lane. Iowa had been aggressively double-teaming Happ all game, and this time probably a little too aggressively. Hawkeye freshman Joe Wieskamp collapsed and left Brevin Pritzl alone at the left elbow. Happ, a terrific passer, had an easy decision. Pritzl had plenty of time to size up his shot and didn’t miss. Wisconsin never trailed again.
“That was a big 3 in the game," Wieskamp said. "Just a silly mistake, but I’ll learn from it.”
- After a Garza missed 3-pointer and a Badgers timeout, Happ was called on again to extend the lead. He was backing down Garza, who had four fouls and hesitated a fraction of a second as Happ spun toward the basket. Garza let Happ go. His layup produced the last of his 13 points and a 65-61 lead with 49 seconds left. The earlier Hawkeye tactic had been to foul Happ, who is a 46.4 percent free-throw shooter after making 1-of-4 Friday.
“Even though it’s my fifth foul, I’ve got to foul him, put him on the line. He’s not going to make two. That was the scouting report. I just messed that up, didn’t think I could do it without giving him an and-one. I’ve just got to be in better position next time,” Garza said.
“He kind of got a little ahead of me. I just couldn’t get there. It was just a little indecision.”
- Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon drew Happ’s fifth foul on the ensuing possession, knocking down both free throws to the cut the deficit to 65-63. That’s when Wisconsin’s D’Mitrik Trice hit the biggest of his four 3-pointers. He was being guarded by Iowa’s Connor McCaffery, who had to fight through a screen at the top of the arc. Teammate Tyler Cook came to help, then backed away from Trice as McCaffery lunged late to try to impede the shot. It was too late. Wisconsin gained a 68-63 lead with 20 seconds left in the game.
“Connor got hung up on the screen a little bit, got there a little late and contested hard. It was late clock; we would typically switch that. I would like for TC to just go out and take him. He's worried about the roll,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
“If I had to critique it, I would rather TC had just gone out and got in his face and not let him make a 3. Maybe he gets blown by or maybe he drives or gets a layup. But TC moves his feet pretty well, so I don't think it would have happened.”
Eight Wisconsin points on three Iowa mistakes in 75 seconds. That was the ballgame, and the Hawkeyes knew it.
Wieskamp makes 'tough' Big Ten debut
It was the first Big Ten game of Wieskamp’s career. He played 32 minutes and 30 seconds. He nearly had the sequence that ignited a Hawkeye victory.
With 3:26 left, Trice lined up a 3-pointer from left of the top of the key. It appeared he had more than enough room, so he took a little care to set his feet. Big mistake.
Wieskamp leaped from five feet away to knock away Trice’s shot. Tyler Cook gathered the rebound and hurried the ball back into Wieskamp’s hands. The rookie made a determined drive and banked home his shot while being fouled by Trice. After a media timeout, Wieskamp returned to the court to nail his free throw. That put the Hawkeyes ahead 61-60. It was their final lead.
Wieskamp finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
“It was tough for me,” Wieskamp said of his indoctrination to Big Ten play. “Coach told all of us before the game that each Big Ten game was going to be tough. You had to fight for each possession. And that’s what I tried to do.”
Bohannon calls on his father to get his touch back
Bohannon missed all five of his shots in the first half Friday. It’s been a common theme this season for the junior. He did make a trio of 3-pointers in the second half, but couldn’t connect on one that would have extended Iowa’s 61-60 lead late.
Bohannon finished 3-for-12 from the field for 11 points. He has made only 32.7 percent of his shots this season. He is not happy.
“I had my dad (Gordy) come down and shoot with me (Thursday) night,” said Bohannon, a Marion native. “He’s been my shot doctor my entire life. (We were) able to correct some things that were wrong, got my rhythm back. I felt really good coming into tonight. I don’t know what it was, just couldn’t knock anything down.”
Bohannon said practices haven’t been going much better. He is Iowa’s best shooter. This is a concern.
“I wish I could at least be hitting in practice or something to get my confidence,” Bohannon said. “I pride myself on having a really good shot, really good form, and it’s just not falling right now.”