The fans that were in attendance had a grand old time and it actually felt like a big time college basketball game watching it on the Big Ten Network. That was nice to see, as was Iowa's execution in this game on offense.
To say that Iowa had been struggling on offense the past three games would be an understatement. They had more turnovers than field goals in their previous two games at Michigan and Purdue. They were averaging nearly 18 turnovers per game in their three-game losing streak. They couldn't make the few open looks they had and they had to work very hard for anything close to a good look near the basket.
Wisconsin didn't let Iowa get easy baskets in this game, but Iowa had several good looks. That was because Iowa was much more patient in its half court sets and played great team basketball. Oh by the way, they had just nine turnovers in 45 minutes, which never hurts.
First, let's get this out of the way; this is not a classic Bo Ryan Badger team. It's not going to contend for a Big Ten title this year, and they will have to fight to make it into the NCAA tournament. They are 12-6, 3-3 in the Big Ten at this point in time, with two of their losses coming in overtime.
Yet, they still space the floor better than any team in the league, and they still give their opponents enough rope to hang themselves. They are the most disciplined team in the Big Ten year in and year out, and this year is no exception. They just don't have as many horses as they have had in recent years.
But the Hawkeyes don't exactly have a stable full of stallions, either. Cyrus Tate missed his third straight game as he recovers from a high ankle sprain. Just before the game, Iowa released a press release announcing that Anthony Tucker would miss the rest of the year due to being academically ineligible.
The players that were on the floor for the Hawkeyes looked more like the team that routed UNI and Iowa State back to back in December than the team that has been very tough to watch this month.
So for a night, the Hawkeyes gave their fans something more to chew on, a shot of adrenaline and belief that once a few breaks can go their way, and once they gain more experience in Todd Lickliter's system, that there will be more nights like this one of and fewer games like Sunday's blowout at Purdue.
David Palmer followed up his 19 point performance on Sunday with a 21 point game tonight.
Now, I am a big Todd Lickliter fan. I really, really, really love disciplined basketball and a man that knows exactly what he wants his team to be. I realize that he doesn't have all the pieces in place yet, so I have not been alarmed over the past three weeks the way that some people have.
That being said, how does a player go from having eight ‘DNP's" prior to four days ago, and in the balance of the games he did play in, he didn't receive more than five minutes in any contest, from scoring 40 points in two games against Purdue and Wisconsin?
Shoot me and email when you figure that out, because I just can't come up with an answer here. Coach Lickliter has said that when one guy plays, someone sits. I get that, and perhaps he feels that the best way for Iowa to succeed this year is for Tate to be in the paint and to put four other players around him that have better ball skills. Palmer can hit the three, he is as active on the interior as any Iowa player since Greg Brunner and he has deft touch.
He is a work in progress on the defensive end, and he does get out of position too often on the offense end, so I can understand the coaching staff not seeing consistency in practice on those fronts.
I guess I am trying to say that it's a pretty remarkable transformation out of the blue, isn't it?
Freshman Aaron Fuller scored five points and grabbed three rebounds tonight, but his blocked shot on a breakaway layup after a late Palmer turnover was one of the huge plays in the game, and the game shouldn't have gone to overtime.
Matt Gatens and Jeff Peterson, Iowa's two best free throw shooters, each missed one free throw in the final 30 seconds that would have made a Wisconsin last second 25-foot three-point shot meaningless.
Yet it's hard to find too much fault in anything tonight, other than the officiating; it was ticky tack for both teams. Fuller probably fouled the Wisconsin player on the block, and Bo Ryan would tell you the same; he received a technical foul after the non-call, and replays showed that Fuller certainly got into the Badger's body.
Jeff Peterson scored 16 points to go along with 7 assists. Gatens added 14 and Jake Kelly tossed in 12. Iowa scored 15 points off of 10 Wisconsin turnovers where the Badgers scored just six off of Iowa's nine turnovers.
Iowa had a huge advantage at the free throw line as they attacked the basket all night long; Iowa made 26 of 35 free throws compared to Wisconsin's 8 of 10. Iowa shot just 43 field goals to Wisconsin's 59.
Iowa went nearly eight minutes with a field goal late in the first half and into the start of the second half, after Jeff Peterson picked up his second foul and went to the bench. Peterson would come back in, but he did not attack as to not pick up that third foul. This will continue to be a problem at Iowa, because they really don't have another true point guard on the team, something that should be addressed on the recruiting trail.
With the win, Iowa improves to 12-7 on the season, just one win away from last year's season total of 13. They travel to Penn State on Saturday before returning home to host Michigan State, a surprise loser at home to Northwestern on Wednesday night.
Then its back on the road for the Hawks, at Illinois and Indiana. Iowa will play five games at home over their final eight games of the season following the trip to Bloomington, Illinois.