Madison, along with the rest of the country, is buzzing about the Badgers' showdown this Sunday with No. 1 Ohio State to keep Wisconsin's Big Ten title hopes alive. Before that, however, the Badger men's basketball team (8-3 Big Ten, 18-5 overall) first had to win on the road Wednesday against Iowa.
Thanks to junior guard Jordan Taylor's clutch heroics, Wisconsin defeated a spirited Hawkeyes sqaud (3-9, 10-14) squad 62-59 in overtime. Although Iowa sits tied for last place in the Big Ten, they came into Wednesday's game with back-to-back wins against Michigan State and Indiana, earning consecutive Big Ten wins for the first time since 2007.
The head-to-head record coming into Wednesday's matchup was an even 76-76 between Wisconsin and Iowa, following last year's 27-point Badger domination at the Kohl Center. However, the two teams' previous meeting resulted in an overtime win for the Hawkeyes
Wisconsin escaped with an overtime win Wednesday, and there was never a relaxed moment. The contest was a defensive stalemate from the opening tip, with physical play from Iowa junior forward Jarryd Cole and freshman forward Melsahn Basabe.
""They were doing all the right things, taking away some cuts, doing what they needed to be doing,"" Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. ""It was very difficult to get a good look at the basket.""
The combination of Iowa's stifling defense, which forced six turnovers and had four blocks, and the Badgers' ice cold offensive performance led to Iowa's 23-18 halftime lead.
In the second half, the tide turned and the Badgers showed why they are a Top 15 team. Wisconsin, who has the fewest turnovers per game in the nation, gave the ball away only two times in the second half. The Badgers' shooting percentage skyrocketed as well, from 18 percent in the first half to 51 percent in the second.
""For the most part, if you're confident in your shot, it's a good shot,"" Taylor said.
Taylor totaled 16 points and eight assists and senior forward Jon Leuer amassed 19 points 15 boards.
After a seesaw game all night, the Badgers found themselves down two points with less than 40 seconds remaining in regulation.
As a freshman playing at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena in 2009, Taylor nailed his first career three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. Two years later, he knocked down a step back jumper to tie the game at 53 with 28 seconds left.
""He absorbs it, he makes the calls in the huddles, on the dead balls, and he makes the call coming out of the timeouts,"" Ryan said. ""He's just a leader, and he is getting better.""
After junior Iowa guard Bryce Cartwright, this season's Big Ten assist leader, missed a three at the end of regulation, the Badgers and Hawkeyes were forced to settle the score with five more minutes on the floor.
The overtime period started with a Taylor three-pointer and was sealed when freshman guard Josh Gasser jumped on a loose ball and called timeout with 8.7 seconds remaining.
""There are going to be nights when shots aren't going down and offensively it's going to be tough, but we always control how hard we work on defense,"" Leuer said.
—UWBadgers.com contributed to this report.