Hawks Go Cold, Fall to #8 Badgers

The Iowa coaches and players are not going to feel great about losing 60-54 to Wisconsin, nor should they. They probably feel like they let a golden opportunity for a win slip away on a cold and snowy night in Iowa City, and they did. They went up against a team that has as much mental toughness as any in college basketball...a team that Iowa may emulate in the near future.

As I watched the Iowa-Wisconsin game on Wednesday, I was thoroughly entertained. That was a very enjoyable game, up until Iowa went on an eight minute field goal drought midway through the second half. Iowa lost the game 60-54.

At that point, Wisconsin did what it normally does; it continued to execute at whatever pace the defense would allow, and it began to build a lead. Not a huge lead, but a five point Wisconsin lead seems the same as a nine point hole against most other teams.

To its credit, Iowa continued to play very solid defense, or the deficit could have been much worse.

That has been a hallmark of Iowa's team all season long; they have not allowed their offensive struggles to affect their defense.

The thing that hurts most about this loss was not that it happened, because Wisconsin is the #8 ranked team in the nation for a reason, but that Iowa played so well for so much of this game, you never gave up hope.

That hurts, but as I have written over the last few weeks, it's a good hurt.

In my opinion, and I have said this since Gary Barta introduced Todd Lickliter as Iowa's coach, Wisconsin basketball under Bo Ryan is on par with what I expect to see out of Iowa basketball under Lickliter once he gets his program on stable footing.

It's nights like Wednesday that give you a glimpse of what the future might hold. That was more than just a glimpse, it was a head through the door, getting a good look around, only to have the door slammed in your face.

'You're not there yet, kid. Come back when you are ready.'

That's how it felt to me.

Make no mistake about it, Iowa didn't step on the floor hoping to keep it close. They have already beaten a top ten ranked team, and they beat Ohio State on Saturday.

But to beat Wisconsin, you must play with poise for 40 minutes, otherwise it's not going to happen. That is why Bo Ryan's teams are such a pleasure to watch, and they demand the knowledgable basketball fan's respect.

I don't know how knowledgable I am, but I enjoy watching them play.

I also think that is where Iowa is headed.

No, I am not going to sit here and predict the same success that Wisconsin has enjoyed under Ryan. Iowa has seldom had that much sustained excellence in its history.

But we have seen enough this year from an undermanned team to have reason to believe that something wonderful could be around the corner.

It almost happened on Wednesday.

You can't blame this game on the officials, but they didn't do Iowa a favor when they called an offensive goaltending call against Kurt Looby with 10:53 to play and Iowa leading by one. The replay clearly showed that the call was wrong, and instead of leading 42-39, Wisconsin got the ball and hit a three-point shot, giving them a 42-40 lead.

Iowa didn't hit a field goal until 3:44 remained, and the officials certainly didn't affect that aspect of the game. Iowa trailed 48-47 at that point, which shows you the kind of defense they were able to play during their offensive struggles.

To beat Wisconsin, you just have to play better than that.

Iowa committed just nine turnovers, a fantastic number. Against Wisconsin, you have to play like that, because they won't beat themselves, either; they had just seven turnovers.

Against Wisconsin, you cannot make just 35.4 percent of your shots; the Badgers made 43.5 percent of their shots.

Iowa shot 76.5 percent from the line, but Wisconsin made 10 straight free throws in the last four minutes.

Iowa did so much right on Wednesday, but Wisconsin was….Wisconsin under Bo Ryan. Tit for tat, play for play, minute for minute, they will out-execute you over the course of 40 minutes. It's tough to play at their mental level.

I think Iowa teams under Todd Lickliter can get near that level. It's just going to take more time.

NOTES: Tony Freeman hit five three-point shots in the game, four in the first half. He led Iowa with 18 points. Cyrus Tate scored 15 (and eight boards), and Seth Gorney added 10. Justin Johnson made just one of nine from the floor, one of five from the line to finish with three points.

12,342 fans were in attendance in spite of the winter storms that have hit Iowa City over the past four days.

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