Ever since the sudden retirement of Bo Ryan in late-December, interim head coach Greg Gard has utilized his bench more and more and has seen noticeable results.
Freshmen bench players Khalil Iverson, Charlie Thomas and redshirt sophomore Jordan Hill proved this with their combined 23 points and crucial win over No. 8 Iowa (11-4 Big Ten, 20-7 Overall) 67-59 Wednesday night in Iowa City.
With its impressive win against one of the Big Ten powerhouses, Wisconsin (10-5, 18-10) has won nine of its last 10 games, with its only loss to No. 6 Michigan State in East Lansing.
UW is now looking like a true dark horse for the NCAA Tournament in March.
After a tightly contested first half, the Badgers went into halftime holding a 35-34 lead. UW went on to finish the second half on a 22-8 run and forced Iowa into a cold stretch that came at the worst possible time for the Hawkeyes.
Despite Iowa going on a 7-0 run to start the second half, Wisconsin continued to fight and relied heavily on its 3-point game despite being heavily outrebounded, 43-30.
As a whole, Wisconsin played a well-rounded game, shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor with 10 buckets from beyond the arc while limiting Iowa to just 18-of-55 shooting for the night.
Junior Bronson Koenig led the Badgers with 15 points, but received an additional 10 points from junior Nigel Hayes and another 23 points from the UW bench.
Iverson nearly tied his career-high with nine points and showcased three impressive dunks, one of which was an NBA All-Star caliber windmill dunk in the second half.
For Iowa, junior Peter Jok boosted the Hawkeyes in the first half with 17 points, but the Badgers contained the electric guard to just four points in the second half.
Former Wisconsin player Jarrod Uthoff struggled with fouls early in the game and scored just 11 points after receiving consideration for being one of the best players in the entire country.
This Sunday, the Badgers will return to the Kohl Center for its last home game of the regular season as they face off against Michigan. The matchup is highly anticipated, as both teams are currently fighting for one of the NCAA Tournament’s last spots.