Hawkeyes are aggressive from start to finish in blowout win over Wisconsin
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Tyler Cook was so eager to get to the basket Tuesday that the Iowa forward was starting to spin in the post before the entry pass even reached his hand.
There hadn't been this much energy in Carver-Hawkeye Arena all season, as Cook and his teammates attacked Wisconsin from the opening tip and earned a convincing 85-67 victory.
It was the first home win of the Big Ten Conference season for the Hawkeyes. And it came three days after their most lopsided loss, 87-64 against Purdue, in a game the Boilermakers led by 31 points at halftime.
The question in the days since was how would Iowa respond. Would there be more timid play or a renewed determination to fight back?
Cook provided the answer with a pair of rim-rattling dunks to open the second half, stretching a nine-point Iowa lead and letting the visitors know that on this night, the Hawkeyes were not going to back down.
"It's just a read that you've got to make," Cook said of his quick decision-making, which allowed him to score 17 points in only 24 minutes. "With a team like that, the way they play post defense, it just works better to catch and go. So that's an adjustment I saw and that I made, and it worked well for me."
Cook limped to the locker room midway through the second half with an ankle injury but said he was cleared to return and doesn't expect to miss any practice time. The Hawkeyes maintained a large lead throughout the half, so he was no longer needed.
The Hawkeyes (11-11, 2-7 Big Ten) scored 48 points in the second half against the Big Ten's fifth-stingiest defensive team. The Hawkeyes enjoyed a double-digit lead for all but 26 seconds after intermission.
"We were just encouraging each other," Cook said. "We wanted to make sure we came out and played each and every possession like it was the last."
It started with the back-to back Cook dunks.
"When he plays with that energy, no one can stop him, really," freshman center Luka Garza said. "You could see a lot of guys were rising to his level in terms of that."
Garza was one of them, finishing with 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
"He's relentless. He's got an incredible sense of where the ball is going to go, whether it's off the rim or if it's loose," coach Fran McCaffery said after Garza recorded his team-leading fourth double-double of the season.
"A lot of big guys — a lot of young big guys — they tire. When they tire, they take possessions off, and he doesn't do that."
Iowa point guard Jordan Bohannon had 13 points and 11 assists for his second double-double of the season. Shooting guard Isaiah Moss added 15 points. Cordell Pemsl chipped in 11 points off the bench, including a career-high seven free throws.
All nine Hawkeyes who played scored.
They were needed contributions for a team that had been struggling throughout Big Ten play, with five of its seven losses by double-digit margins. Tuesday was the first time the Hawkeyes held a halftime lead against a league opponent.
That advantage was a result of a 9-0 start to the game that saw the Badgers (10-11, 3-5) miss their first nine shots. Wisconsin never led and rarely challenged a host team feeding off an enthusiastic crowd announced at 11,563.
"I thought their bigs outworked our bigs in terms of the transition back. We were there and then would get caught behind," Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. "It's a different animal, too, in terms of mobility and what those guys can do. I was impressed with Garza on film, and Tyler Cook has taken a huge jump from a freshman to a sophomore."
Wisconsin star Ethan Happ fouled out with 21 points, but had just four in the first half and also committed four turnovers as Iowa got physical with the junior center.
It was the fewest points Iowa has allowed to a Big Ten opponent this year. And it came one game after Purdue set a league record by making 20 3-pointers in this building.
"I think it had a lot to do with it," Garza said when asked if the Purdue embarrassment spurred Iowa's Tuesday performance. "We've got some determined guys and we have pride. We wanted to show our best effort and try to work as hard as we could. We watched a lot of film of the Purdue game and just seeing the lack of awareness and attention to detail to the scouting report.
"We locked into what we needed to do, and we did it."
Iowa next plays at Nebraska on Saturday.