Fourteen turnovers. A nine-minute field goal drought to end the game. A five-second violation with under a minute despite having a timeout. And yet, they still only lost by single digits.
After nearly blowing a double-digit lead against the Nittany Lions, the Badgers (17-12 overall, 10-11 Big Ten) blew a six-point halftime lead to fall to the Iowa Hawkeyes (21-7 overall, 15-6 Big Ten) by a score of 62-57. This was Iowa’s third win against the Badgers in as many games this season.
The Badgers started the game as they normally did against the Hawkeyes this season: By quickly falling behind. Iowa took a seven-point lead early, despite uncharacteristically streaky shooting by Fran McCaffery’s squad.
Iowa’s shooting, however, quickly turned from uncharacteristically streaky to downright bad. At the end of the first half, the Hawkeyes had shot 0-10 from three-point range.
The Badgers, on the other hand, were remarkably hot. You wouldn’t know that this was a team that struggled shooting all year. You wouldn’t know that Brad Davison is putting up all-time poor shooting numbers from two-point range after watching him drill two threes in a row. And you wouldn’t know that Aleem Ford was ice cold before the Big Ten tournament after watching him drill threes and pound the paint.
The Badgers entered the locker rooms in Lucas Oil Stadium up 32-26. Only a fool would think that was sustainable.
To say the second half was “all Iowa” would be unfair. D’Mitrik Trice brushed off an early 2-7 start to score 12 points in the first 12 minutes of game time, all of which were necessary to keep the Badgers in the game.
It wasn’t the offensive end that killed the Badgers, and in a strange way it wasn’t really their defense, either. But the way that the Badgers allowed the Hawkeyes to grab offensive rebounds would have made the Badger bigs of yore like Frank Kaminsky and Ethan Happ ashamed.
After holding the Hawkeyes to three offensive rebounds in the first half (off of which they only scored two points), they allowed eight in the first 12 minutes of the second half. Wisconsin’s inability to keep Iowa off the glass and finish defensive possession gave the Hawkeyes points and invaluable energy.
Of course, there were also the classic Wisconsin scoring droughts. The Badgers had two scoring droughts of three minutes or more in the second half alone.
The Badgers did not hit a single field goal from 9:21 in the second half all the way to 12 seconds left in the game. Trice finally broke the slump with a pull-up three.
The Badgers now have no choice but to wait until Sunday night to find out where they will stand for the NCAA Tournament. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has them as a No. 6 seed, while FOX Sports’ Mike DeCourcy has them as a No. 8 seed and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has them as a No. 9 seed.