"You have to be able to grind out," Leuer said, "and that's exactly what we did."
Sometimes, stealing one in crunch time is better than blowing one team out of the water, a bit of relief the Badgers experienced against a young, yet scrappy Iowa squad that UW scraped past with a 62-59 overtime victory Wednesday night.
It was a gut check for all 45 minutes for Wisconsin (18-5, 8-3 Big Ten), which experienced the whole spectrum of emotions. UW went from being unable to throw a basketball into the ocean to taking control to seeing a game-winning shot from Iowa touch three-quarters of the rim before trickling to the court at the end of regulation.
In terms of beauty on a scale of 1 to 10, this one was not for the faint of heart.
"Probably a negative one," said Leuer, who finished with a game-high 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. "It was ugly, definitely."
While it wasn't as pretty as dominate 30-point performance Sunday, the Badgers would be in a different place without Taylor's grinding effort. The junior guard's 6-for-18 points wasn't aesthetically pleasing, but the timeliness in his 16-point production warranted a long nap on the beige pillow he clung to as he sauntered to the bus.
"He's not Superman, he can't do everything but sometimes, you think he is," Leuer said
With Wisconsin down 53-51 late in regulation, Taylor hit a pull-up jumper at the top of the key with 29 seconds left, and then contesting Bryce Cartwright's step-back jump shot, having enough of an impact to see it teeter off the rim with one second remaining in regulation.
"He makes that shot … it was right in and out," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "We got the shot we wanted there."
The last time Taylor stepped foot in Iowa City, the then-freshman hit a three from near midcourt that sent the game to overtime, only to see his team run out of steam in the extra session. This time, Taylor had enough in the tank to help UW commit only two turnovers in the final 25 minutes while he dished out eight assists.
"Taking care of the ball saves us again," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "Who's responsible for taking care of the ball? Jordan Taylor."
One could tell how hard Taylor battled, as his media session lasted less than 90 seconds, his answers were short and his eyes glazed over … a product of playing 44 of 45 minutes and being on the receiving end of a hard foul by Cartwright with seven seconds remaining in overtime.
"It was a struggle, but we got a win," Taylor said. "That's all that matters."
Considering its first half, Wisconsin was fortunate to never be down double digits. The Badgers started 3-for-23 shooting en route to shoot 18.4 percent (6-for-33) in the first half, including 2-for-16 from 3-points range (12.5 percent), and were dominated 16-6 in points in the paint.
Iowa shot the ball better (42.3 percent) but saw eight turnovers go for eight Wisconsin points. Even when Wisconsin made a bucket, it didn't count, as the officials waved off and didn't review a half court heave from Josh Gasser, despite replays showing the shot narrowly beating the shot clock.
It was so bad that Ryan joked he heard a bunch of Iowa students taking up a collection to play horse against the Badgers.
"They probably would have gotten us," Jarmusz laughed.
The statistics did improve dramatically with Wisconsin making 15 of 29 shots (51.7 percent) in the second half, not surprising because of Leuer and Taylor shooting and passing the Badgers into the lead. After Iowa (10-14, 3-9) took a seven-point lead, Wisconsin went on a 19-10 to take its biggest lead, and saw 17 of those points come from either the senior or junior.
"You can sulk or pout," Ryan said, "and our guys didn't."
Overtime seemed to give a false sense of hope with Taylor hitting a 3-pointer from the right elbow and see Iowa immediately go on a 4-0 run to take a 57-56 lead with 2:05 in overtime. But a back-and-forth affair finally swung in UW's way after Jarmusz hit a 3-pointer with 1:34 remaining to give UW the lead for good.
"Jordan and Jon are looking for the open shot, but Jordan penetrates and finds me open," Jarmusz said. "I just had to knock it down."
Bigger than any one bucket in overtime, however, was the grittiness of Gasser, who scrambled on the floor to corral Taylor's miss with 12 seconds left in overtime and call a timeout, allowing UW to build a three-point lead it wouldn't relinquish.
It was one of 16 offensive rebounds Wisconsin grabbed on the night, a huge benefit to the Badgers despite being outscored 8-7 on second-chance points.
"That was huge to get those second chances," Leuer said. "It could have even been more beneficial for us, but we let some opportunities slip away.
Three days after the Badgers shot 59 percent in a 26-point dismantling of Michigan State,
The road used to be a safe haven for Wisconsin, which had gone 24-17 in true road tests away from the Kohl Center over the past four years, but had gone 2-4 this season entering Wednesday night, succumbing to late turnovers, blown double-digit leads and bad shooting performances.
The Badgers had all that wrapped into one against Iowa, but managed to thwart Iowa's first three game conference winning streak in four seasons. Consider this the physical undercard before Saturday's heavyweight tilt against No.1 Ohio State.
"That's what this team has been all about, just hard work and being a blue-collared team," Jarmusz said. "We were able to find a way and win in the end."