IOWA CITY, Iowa - Ask Fran McCaffery what went wrong in last week's 32-point loss at Wisconsin and the Iowa coach offers a succinct answer - everything. Figuring out how to correct those deficiencies for Saturday's rematch is much more complicated.
The fifth-rated Badgers have lost only twice this year, once at home to No. 4 Duke and on the road at Rutgers. Wisconsin was missing starting point guard Traevon Jackson and player of the year candidate, Frank Kaminsky, for the bulk of the latter setback.
The Badgers blew out Iowa last Tuesday. The Hawkeyes were disjointed on both ends of the floor. McCaffery said it was their worst performance of the year.
"Execution was poor in a lot of areas. Their execution was really good in a lot of areas. It was kind of the perfect storm that way. So we've got to do a better job defensively. We've got to do a better job with offensive execution, we've got to do a better job on the glass. We've got to do a better job taking away the three. They shoot it so well," he said.
Wisconsin turned the ball over just once against the Hawkeyes and out-rebounded them, 37-23. Iowa shot just 4 of 10 from the foul line, its lowest percentage and fewest attempts in a game this season.
"From a strategy standpoint, you can do some different things, but you're still guarding the same guys, and they've got a lot of offensive weapons. They've got a lot of three-point shooters," McCaffery said. "They've got size. They've got post-up guys. We just have to try to do a good job on the glass to limit them as much as we can."
The Hawkeyes face the possibility that leader scoring and rebounder, Aaron White, could miss the game or be less than 100 percent after suffering a severe stinger last Saturday at Purdue. White says he'll play but has yet to be cleared by doctors to do so, McCaffery said.
McCaffery employed a smaller lineup at Purdue, with back-up point guard Anthony Clemmons playing in place of White for much of the game.
"(Clemmons) certainly played well enough to earn that opportunity (to start against Wisconsin if White can't)," McCaffery said. "That would be a way we would have to think about going. That makes us small against a big team, so I'm kind of weighing that in my mind. Do we have to go with Dom (Uhl), get another 6-8 guy out on the floor, or Josh (Oglesby), who's about 6-6? But Clemmons, he was really good. I was really impressed with him. Sometimes you give a little bit up defensively and maybe your team is a little bit better offensively, and just got to go with it."
Turning around the outcome against a team that beat you by 32 points less than two weeks ago represents a daunting task for Iowa. It's what they're prepared to tackle, they say.
"We just kind felt like that wasn't us," starting point guard Mike Gesell said. "We honestly didn't do anything that we wanted to going into that game as far as our scouting report and what our game plan was. I don't know what it was. Mark that up to an off night. We feel like we're capable of beating any team in the country. We're going to go out there and battle and we're hungry."
Iowa can lean on experience in bouncing back from tough losses this season. To prepare you for this Big Ten tilt, we bring you our Pre-Game Primer:
Records, Rankings, RPI: The Hawkeyes are 13-7 overall, 4-3 in the Big Ten, unranked and started Thursday at 52 in the RPI. Wisconsin is at 18-2, 6-1, ranked No. 5 in the AP and were at 8 in the RPI.
Previous Meeting: As we discussed, Wisconsin trashed the Hawkeyes, 82-50, Jan. 20 in Madison. Iowa trailed by 18 at halftime and never challenged after the intermission.
The Badgers lead the all-time series, 81-79, after winning the previous four. Iowa last beat them at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in January of 2013.
Before last week's blowout, the prior seven meetings between the two teams had been decided by seven points or less. That dated back to 2011.
Statistical Leaders: Scoring - Aaron White, Iowa, 15.1 PPG; Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin, 17.2. Rebounds - White, Iowa, 6.6 RPG; Kaminsky, Wisconsin, 8.2. Assists - Mike Gesell, Iowa, 3.6 APG; Traevon Jackson (out with injury), Wisconsin, 2.9.
Common Opponents: In addition to playing each other, both teams have met Purdue and Nebraska. Wisconsin is 2-0 against those teams while the Hawkeyes are 1-1.
Skinny: It's hard to imagine Iowa turning around the 32-point shellacking it took last week, especially with White at less than 100 percent. But, they still have to play the game and upsets happen every day.
Wisconsin has lost at Rutgers, albeit without two starters, and needed overtime to win against an injury-plagued Michigan team on Saturday. They've had to adjust to life without their floor leader, Jackson, and that will be a challenge on the road in a hostile Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Badgers, who reached the Final Four last year, are battle tested, however. And, they match up well with Iowa, whose strength is in the front-court with White, Jarrod Uthoff, Adam Woodbury and Gabe Olaseni.
The Hawkeyes need to avoid settling for quick jump shots as they did on Madison. They must challenge the Wisconsin bigs and get to the foul line.
On defense, Iowa has to work more as a team and avoid getting caught in isolations and mismatches against the very versatile Badgers. It'd also help to knock down a few threes and hit the glass.
These things are all easier said than done, however. Wisconsin is the Big Ten favorite for a reason and a less than optimal effort with poor execution by the Hawkeyes will lead to a third loss in a row and further push them on top of the bubble.
It should be an electric environment. That would rattle a lot of opponents. The Badgers are unlike most teams.
Prediction: Wisconsin 69, IOWA 61