Continued to be plagued by poor free throw shooting, Wisconsin shot 6-for-12 in regulation to almost watch a chance to keep pace with the Big Ten leaders slip away.
But as soon as Wisconsin got a second chance, the Badgers flipped the switch and took back possession of their Iowa rival.
"We just kept working," said senior Jared Berggren, who finished with 16 points and career highs in rebounds (14) and blocks (7) in Wisconsin's 74-70 overtime win over Iowa Wednesday at the Kohl Center.
"That was obviously a tough battle out there. It's a team that plays hard and they've had our number the last couple meetings with them, so we just kept fighting … We showed a lot of fight. We did just enough to find a way to get a win."
It was Wisconsin's first double overtime game since playing Eastern Kentucky on November 19, 2005. The Badgers won that one with their offense and 95 points. Wisconsin (16-7, 7-3 Big Ten) won this one by finally ratcheting up the intensity to match Iowa battle for battle.
Almost as important as his points, Berggren has two of his seven blocks and four of his 14 rebounds in the overtime session, as his eight offensive rebounds helped the Badgers score 20 second-chance points.
He had plenty of help along the way. Mike Bruesewitz grabbed seven defensive rebounds, drew charges and grabbed loose balls while Ryan Evans, in addition to his 15 points, added nine rebounds and tied his career high with five assists.
As a result, Wisconsin closed a rebounding gap that once favored Iowa by 11 to a slight 51-49 disadvantage by grabbing 12 loose balls in overtime.
"It was a just a grind fest," said junior Ben Brust, who led all scorers with 18. "Whoever could get to the loose balls and whoever could make a play. We were just able to come up on the left side, which was good."
Although shooting only 33.8 percent (24-for-71) overall and 28 percent from three-point range (7-for-25), Wisconsin – the conference's worst free-throw shooting team at 56.2 percent – made 13 of its final 14 free throw attempts to keep the Badgers 1.5 games behind Indiana in the Big Ten standings.
"It was good to get to the line, first off, (Sunday)," said Brust, referring to Wisconsin attempted a season-high 42 free throws at Illinois. "When you get some guys to knock them down, you kind of feed off that a little bit, which was good that we converted those."
As appreciative as the crowd was for the free-throw performance, it was the shots that came within the flow of the game that proved the most vital. Eleven days after he hit the game-winning shot against the Gophers, Traevon Jackson (13 points) hit a three-point shot that bounced off the front rim and the backboard before dropping in to tie the score with 20.5 seconds left.
After sitting on the bench for most of the second half and first overtime, Dekker hit a three-pointer from the right elbow with 1:37 remaining in double overtime that broke the last of the game's 14 ties.
"Good for me it went down," said Dekker, "and for the team."
Wisconsin led by as many as 11 at one point, holding Iowa (14-9, 3-7) to 35.5 percent shooting and forcing six turnovers in the first half, but slowly saw the lead start to melt away as Iowa crashed the boards.
Outrebounding Wisconsin, 33-29, in the first half and turning 10 offensive rebounds into 12 second-chance points, Iowa went on a 34-14 run in the 20 minutes following Coach Fran McCaffery's technical foul, resulting in the visitors leading 51-42 with 6:18 remaining.
That preceded the less-than-eight-minute media timeout, which came at the perfect time.
"We were talking about how we can do this," said Brust. "We just got a stop and a score, stop and a score and then we were right there."
Brust made good on his speech, hitting a three off an inbounds play that sparked a 12-2 run that he capped off by grabbing an offensive rebound between two Iowa defenders and making the short jumper. Erasing the nine-point deficit was the second largest comeback of the season, trailing UW's 13-point comeback against Arkansas in November.
"We just hung on, hung on and hung on some more," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "To close that gap when we were down nine to get it into the first overtime, that was really gutsy by our guys."
And also a little bit lucky considering Josh Oglesby's three-pointer attempt at the buzzer appeared to go halfway down the net before twisting out. Iowa finished 2-for-8 after going up nine points and went only 4-for-16 in the two overtimes.
"We missed 49 shots," said McCaffery, as Iowa shot 33.8 percent (25-for-74). "We've got to start making some shots. We had some great looks at it."