The No. 16/15 Wisconsin men’s basketball team (9-5 Big Ten, 20-7 overall) looks to get an important road win against Iowa (6-8, 14-13) in Iowa City on Thursday.
Although Iowa delivered the Badgers a shocking defeat at the Kohl Center at the end of December, no one considers it a revenge game.
“They exposed us a little bit. We obviously didn’t play our best game when they came down here and it kind of set the tone for the Big Ten that we didn’t want, obviously,” sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. “We think we’re back on track here and ready to go. We’ll take it to them again. I wouldn’t say revenge, but we’re playing to get a win.”
Though the Badgers will not call it a revenge game, they will certainly want to play better against the Hawkeyes this time around.
In their loss earlier this year to the Hawkeyes, the Badgers gave up a season-high 72 points, including 14 points off the fast break. The Badgers also struggled on the offensive side of the ball, turning in one of their worst shooting performances of the year.
Wisconsin shot just 35 percent from the field and missed 25 of their 28 three-point attempts. Missing those outside shots not only hurt Wisconsin’s shooting percentage, but exacerbated the Badgers’ troubles in transition as well by allowing the Hawkeyes to grab the long rebounds and run.
A game with an up-and-down pace that the Hawkeyes like to play does not suit Wisconsin’s slug-it-out style, so it will be very important for the Badgers to slow the pace down this time.
One way to stop the Hawkeyes from getting in transition is by making shots. In order to do that, the Badgers must find an inside presence that has been somewhat absent in their last two games. In those games, Wisconsin was outscored by the Spartans and Nittany Lions in the paint by a combined 42 points.
“We’ve got to work the ball in the post a little bit more. I think we’ve got to establish a strong inside game, especially with [junior center] Jared [Berggren],” junior forward Mike Bruesewitz said. “I think we’ve got to get him back going on the block because he can be really dominant down there.”
Getting the ball in the paint also gives the Badgers more free-throw attempts, slowing down the Hawkeyes’ transition game even further.
“Getting to the line obviously slows them down. It just changes the pace of the game,” Bruesewitz said. “It kind of makes the tempo more of what we want it to be, a little more of a ground-it-out game than trying to get it up-and-down and run with those guys.”
Thursday’s game could be a big one for Wisconsin’s momentum and possible NCAA Tournament seeding moving forward. If the Badgers are able to slow down Iowa and get a road win in a tough environment like Iowa City, it could give them a boost of confidence they could use when they visit Columbus, Ohio. to battle the Buckeyes on Sunday.
Thursday’s showdown with the Hawkeyes is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and can be seen on ESPN2.