Iowa's first home loss of the season came tonight at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers. Fran McCaffery mentioned earlier in the week that new coach Greg Gard was using the "winning formula" that had been established by Bo Ryan. It worked again tonight in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa continues to scuffle down the stretch, falling to the Badgers Wednesday night 67-59.
It was a night that was marred by Iowa turnovers and fantastic shooting by Wisconsin despite strong defense and energy from the Hawkeyes. Iowa turned the ball over 14 times and that won't win you games no matter what venue it is.
Jarrod Uthoff spent most of the night in foul trouble and only Peter Jok was able to get into any kind of scoring rhythm. Jok lead the Hawkeyes with 21 points. Clemmons had 13 and Uthoff had 11. Adam Woodbury also finished the game with 18 rebounds.
Here are the takeaways.
It was by far the best atmosphere of the year inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The student section was completely full. They were standing the entire game and totally engaged and loud. It kind of rubbed off on the rest of the building. The other fans stood up for several portions of the game and it was a fun one to be apart of. I think the players certainly felt that. This is what it's like at almost every home conference game for teams such as Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue, Maryland, and Illinois. If they can make this the norm for the Hawkeyes, they'll have as fine a venue as well. It did not aid them unfortunately as they lost their first home contest of the season.
DEFENSIVE ENERGY RETURNS
It may not seem like it because Wisconsin certainly had their share of success on the offensive end. Sure, the execution was poor at times. A few rotations were too slow. They were weak in the paint when Adam Woodbury wasn't on the field. But the energy was back. They were getting out on the shooters on the perimeter; Wisconsin just shot it well even when they were guarded. You can play fantastic defense and not get the job done sometimes because the offense is just a little better. That was kind of the case tonight. You have to tip your cap to the Badgers for how they were able to handle the ball pressure, make challenged shots, and generate ball movement. The Hawkeyes defense was just as good and I'll single out Peter Jok, Adam Woodbury, Nicholas Baer, and Dom Uhl in particular.
HAYES AND HAPP ARE GOOD
I know this is an Iowa site but hard not to be impressed by these two young men. Nigel Hayes is so long and quick and athletic. He's also a terrific ball handler and he'll be a lot like Uthoff in a few years except probably not as much of a sharpshooter from the outsider but quicker and better and getting to the basket. Ethan Happ has a terrific first step for a post player. He can get around you and score because of his first step. He isn't all that developed and rides on that quickness now but it's awfully impressive. They are going to be headaches for the rest of the Big Ten the next couple of seasons. Except, look out for Hayes. He probably has the athleticism to play in the NBA I would think.
There were far more in the first half but that was puzzling tonight. They are known for taking care of the ball but that didn't happen again. It's not a trend. It's not a sign of things to come. Teams with two point guards tend to take care of the ball better than others. It was just a bad night in that respect. This was more of a blip but it came at a bad time. It ultimately lost them the game because there were a couple down the stretch that bit them.
LOST THREE OUT OF FOUR
Iowa's home loss against Wisconsin is not just their first home loss of the season but also their third defeat in the last four contests. They're limping down the stretch and have taken themselves out of first place in the league once again. The Hoosiers are now in the driver's seat. This is one they had to have. In what looked like a season that could possibly end in an outright title, they'd feel fortunate now to share the Big Ten crown. They played well tonight but Wisconsin was just better. But they need to figure things out quickly to change the momentum of the season before it ends in poor fashion.