For junior Josh Gasser, it was simply a little bit of nirvana.
"That's college basketball, teams go on runs, especially when you are playing on the road," said Gasser. "You got to know it's coming sometime and you've got to respond effectively."
Those were words to live by for No.16 Wisconsin, which never folded when the vice was tightened in the second half, resulting in the Badgers delivering another eye-popping resume win with a 79-74 victory at No.15 Iowa Saturday afternoon.
Winning at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the first time in three years, Wisconsin (22-5, 9-5 Big Ten) has won five straight, are 7-2 against Top25 teams, have eight top-50 RPI wins and are 10-2 away from home, not bad for a team that everybody forgot about last month.
"People were writing us off, saying the sky is falling and stuff, but you've just got to stick with it," said Sam Dekker, who registered his second straight double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. "It's basketball. It happens, but now we've got on a little bit of a roll here."
Behind Frank Kaminsky's 21 points and 12 each from Gasser and Bronson Koenig, the Badgers' second straight road upset keeps hopes alive for their first conference title since 2008, moving alone into third place and staying two games behind Michigan and Michigan State in the loss column. Those two teams play each other in Ann Arbor Sunday.
And just like the game in Michigan last weekend, when the Badgers saw a big lead cut down to three in the second half before responding, Wisconsin didn't blink when they saw a double-digit lead evaporate.
"They just stuck with it," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "… Our guys had plenty of energy. Our guys aren't looking for excuses. They aren't looking for anybody to feel sorry for them. They just play."
In a second half that saw eight lead changes over the final 11 minutes, it appeared that Iowa (19-7, 8-5) was going to take control multiple times, especially with a little over six minutes remaining. Kaminsky, who had made so many stellar post moves throughout the game, missed a short post shot inside, leading to a transition bucket for Iowa, giving the Hawkeyes their largest lead in the second half at 62-58.
"In the second half we unfortunately let it slip away a little bit," said Gasser, "but then we made a couple big plays to stay with them."
Gasser was the set up man for the stretch run, making three 3-pointers in a seven minute stretch of the second half that gave UW the instant offense it needed.
"Any time I am open, I am going to shoot it," said Gasser, who's averages 2.9 3-point attempts per game this season. "I have confidence that it's going to go in. I like to be a team player. I like to make plays for my teammates first, and when my shot there I am going to take it. Today I felt like I needed to make a couple plays offensively."
Nigel Hayes – whose late-season struggles continued with a 2-for-8 night – delivered on a three-point play that tied the game at 66 with 3:18 to go and had Iowa coach Fran McCaffery barking at the officiating crew for an offensive foul call.
After guard Josh Oglseby hit a jumper to give Iowa a 68-66 lead, Gasser buried a 3-pointer to put UW up one with 2:48 to go. The answers continued. After former UW player Jarrod Uthoff delivered a baseline runner with 2:11 to go, freshman Bronson Koenig notched his career-high 12th point on a jumper with 1:21 remaining.
Koenig entered the game averaging two points in only 12 minutes of conference play, but ended up playing 23 minutes of turnover-free basketball. Just as important, he helped generate the offense early, scoring eight points in his first seven minutes and helping UW make 12 of its first 15 shots.
"Quite a big lift," Ryan said of Koenig. "He stared those shots down. Put some points on the board. That's what we needed. That kind of relaxed some of the other guys."
Oglesby, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half delivered another jumper off a low-post ball screen to put Iowa up 72-71 with 61 seconds remaining, but Kaminsky took over from there. He answered with a jumper with 37.1 seconds left that gave Wisconsin a one-point lead, and then stripped Iowa's Roy Devyn Marble on a drive to the basket and hit two free throws as the Badgers went up 75-72 with 24.5 seconds left.
Marble had 21 points and 11 assists for the Hawkeyes, who lost their third home game in four tries.
"He was trying to make a play, and he presented the ball and I just hit it out of his hands," Kaminsky said of the steal. "That's one of those plays where it's kind of up to the (referee) to see what they're going to call. I thought I got it clean. I'm just happy it came out in our favor."
Including Kaminsky's two free throws, Wisconsin made its final six free throws, never letting Iowa get closer than three the rest of the game. Wisconsin shot 47.6 percent overall, won the rebounding battle 35-33 and turned 13 offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points, causing McCaffery to bemoan his team's defensive effort.
"We didn't play that well," he said, "but at least we had some semblance of keeping them in front of us."
Wisconsin's January swoon is now all but forgotten, as the Badgers made up for bizarre losses at Indiana and Northwestern – two games UW failed to build upon second half leads – by beating back-to-back ranked Big Ten teams on the road in consecutive games for the first time in school history.
"We make do with what we got," said Dekker. "We play hard. We play smart. If you are physical underneath and just fight, you're going to be on the winning side a lot."