Three minutes and 42 seconds into Wisconsin’s (3-5 Big Ten, 10-11 overall) matchup with Iowa (2-7, 11-11) Tuesday night, the Badgers had taken nine shots. They had zero points to show for it. That about sums up the night UW had, getting tossed around by the Big Ten’s second worst team, 85-67.
Junior forward Khalil Iverson kept the Badgers’ heads above water in the first half, scoring 13 of his team’s 28 points on 6-of-8 shooting with two assists to boot. His teammates struggled, though, sinking just six of their combined 23 shot attempts. Astonishingly, Iverson kept UW within striking distance of Iowa, trailing by just nine at the intermission.
But as the second half opened, it took Tyler Cook just 64 seconds to smash the Badgers’ hope with back-to-back dunks that put the Hawkeyes up 13. From there on out it was all Iowa, as a team with just one conference win heading into Tuesday night coasted to a 19-point lead in the first five minutes of the second half and glided to an easy victory. After trailing by at least 17 points in each of their last seven games, the Hawkeyes led coast-to-coast en route to their most impressive win of the season.
For the Badgers, it will be hard to take away positives from the weekday whitewashing. Redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ made all five of his free throw attempts — just the second time in his career he’s gone perfect on that many attempts. Junior forward Charles Thomas IV made all five of his shot attempts to finish with 10 points, two off his career-high. Iverson finished 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
But that’s about it. Redshirt sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl’s 1-of-6 line from beyond the arc was matched in disappointment by freshman guard Brad Davison’s 2-of-10 from the floor, while freshman forward Nate Reuvers had the hardest night of the bunch, finishing 1-of-7 overall.
All told, players not named Happ, Iverson or Thomas took 30 shots and made six of them. Six. That’s 20 percent.
For contextualization, the Iowa defense has been astronomically bad this year. Its KenPom defensive rating of 106.3 heading into Tuesday night had been bested in ineptitude only by Rutgers’ in 2016 among Big Ten teams over the past decade. That Rutgers team lost its first 16 games of conference play.
If indeed the Badgers needed a game to scare them straight, this was it. Not their home-court embarrassment at the hands of Ohio State, nor their four-point loss to Rutgers in early January. No, if such games exist, this one should be a wakeup call for UW. The Badgers need a change, and they need it now.
It’s unclear what that change needs to look like. But right now, head coach Greg Gard can’t get his team to put the ball in the hoop, and Tom Izzo can smell the blood in the water. His No. 6 Spartans are hungry. They feel like the best team in the Big Ten, and they want to show it. The Badgers head to East Lansing Friday, and if things don’t change by then, things will get ugly.