Keegan Murray scores 27 points, but Iowa basketball's night unravels quickly in 87-78 loss at Wisconsin

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

MADISON, Wis. — Late in the first half of Thursday’s Big Ten Conference game at the Kohl Center, Wisconsin forward Tyler Wahl missed back-to-back free throws. After the second misfire bounced off the rim, Iowa players Patrick McCaffery and Jordan Bohannon bumped into one another and the ball trickled harmlessly out of bounds.

That went down as a Wisconsin offensive rebound, and the Badgers cashed it in with a Johnny Davis layup to take an 11-point lead with 44 seconds left in the first half. Tack on a controversial 3-shot foul call that Brad Davison turned into three points, and it was that kind of night for the Badgers … and the Hawkeyes.

Wisconsin dominated Iowa in just about every category on its way to an 87-78 victory that wasn't really that close. The Hawkeyes trailed by 18 with 2½ minutes to go.

The Badgers decisively won the battle on the glass, which has been a problem for Iowa all season long. Wisconsin entered the game 12th in the Big Ten Conference in rebounding margin but had 43 boards to Iowa's 26. 

Davis was fantastic for Wisconsin, which finished a big week by avenging last year’s 0-3 record against the Hawkeyes. The Badgers on Monday knocked off third-ranked Purdue in West Lafayette behind Davis’ 37 points and 14 rebounds. Davis had 26 points and nine rebounds in this one, including 19 points in the first half as Wisconsin raced to a 45-32 locker-room lead. Davison finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.

Davison’s three free throws with 8 seconds in the first half drew the game’s most rivalry fire. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was livid after his son, Patrick McCaffery, was whistled for a foul after it appeared Davison’s leg initiated the contact as he followed through with a 3-point attempt.

“We know who they called it for. He’s a good player but he does stuff like that and it’s frustrating," Patrick McCaffery said. "I thought I blocked the shot.”

No matter, though, as Wisconsin ran away with this one early in the second half. A Wahl dunk on a feed from Davis pushed the lead to 57-38 before Iowa could even get to the under-16 timeout. The Hawkeyes' only leads of the night were 2-0 and 4-2.

Keegan Murray, coming off a career-high-tying 35 points in Monday's win against Maryland, led the Hawkeyes with 27 points and five rebounds. He had a second-half scare, crashing to the hardwood on his right side. But after a brief trip to the locker room with head athletic trainer Brad Floy, Murray was back in the game. Afterward, he said he was fine and expected nothing more than a bruise.

That was really the only good news of the night for Iowa (11-4 overall, 1-3 Big Ten), which doesn't play again until a Jan. 13 home date against Indiana. No. 23-ranked Wisconsin (12-2, 3-1) will likely soar in next week's rankings after an impressive week behind their national player of the year candidate in Davis. 

This was the only regular-season meeting between Iowa and Wisconsin.

“Obviously the Big Ten is going to be a grind," Murray said. "This is one of those games we’ve got to learn from.”

Bohannon, a sixth-year senior, set an NCAA record by playing in his 158th career game Thursday. He didn't attempt his first shot until 3:20 remained in the game but finished with 12 points, nine coming in the final minutes. 

Check back to for more postgame coverage from the Register's Chad Leistikow in Madison.