After playing four games in an 11 day span, Wisconsin was able to take the weekend off before facing Iowa Tuesday night. Iowa will become a familiar foe for the Badgers, as Wisconsin is scheduled to play the Hawkeyes twice in the next three games.
Iowa (13-5, 4-1) won its two games this past week, including a 9-point victory over Ohio State to sweep the season series. In that victory, Iowa was consistently in control of the game and had a double-digit lead for most of the game, including being up by as much as 17 points.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin as they strive for a win against Iowa.
Lay up: Winning the paint
With the size and length advantage Wisconsin has over most teams, you would expect that the Badgers have controlled the paint during most of the games. That hasn’t been the case since Big Ten play started, as Wisconsin is being outscored around the basket 29.6 to 25.6.
Wisconsin’s 25.6 points in the paint is good considering that is about a third of their scoring average (73.3 points a game) but that number has seen a dip in production considering UW averaged 31.1 points in the paint during nonconference play. Wisconsin has also only been able to top 30 points in the paint once during Big Ten play, which was the conference opener against Penn State. After topping 30 or more paint points seven times in nonconference play, the Badgers hit a low point Thursday in scoring a season-low 12 point in the lane against Nebraska.
Iowa is giving up 29.2 points in the paint since Big Ten play started and has also lost the points in the paint category three out of five times in Big Ten play. If Wisconsin is going to accomplish what they need to do down low, it will begin with what Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes. Hayes and Kaminsky need to be aggressive down low and call for the ball if they have a chance to make a post move for a basket. Iowa’s front court will try and have Kaminsky play from the perimeter, something Nebraska had success with as 12 of Kaminsky’s 22 points came from beyond the arc, but Kaminsky has shown all season that he is capable of making a three with a 40.8 3-point shooting percentage.
Iowa is also averaging 25.6 points in the paint in Big Ten play and have an experienced post player in senior Aaron White who can hurt the Badgers if their defense isn’t up to snuff. White leads Iowa in scoring (16.1), rebounds (7.1) and is shooting 52.2 percent from the field, which ranks ninth amongst Big Ten players. Wisconsin’s frontcourt needs to be careful that they don’t foul him, as White has been able to consistently draw fouls around the rim with about eight free throw attempts a game this season.
Mid-range jumper: Winning the rebounding battle
In order for Wisconsin to win the battle in the paint, the Badgers will need to make sure they don’t allow Iowa many second-chance opportunities. It’s a tough challenge considering Iowa leads the Big Ten in offensive rebounds at 13.1 a game. As expected White leads the team with 2.3 offensive rebounds a game.
But Wisconsin has done well in winning the rebounding battle (13-1 when out rebounding its opponent) and Kaminsky will be pivotal in making sure White or Jarrod Uthoff can’t have success on the offensive glass. Kaminsky has been consistent on the glass, as he is just one of three major conference players who’s averaging at least 17.2 points, eight rebounds and 1.9 blocks. The other two players are Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas. Kaminsky should be able to consistently win his battle against Adam Woodbury (5.8 rebounds a game).
That means Hayes will need to do well in boxing out White to make sure he can’t get his hands on the basketball. Like Kaminsky, Hayes has been an effective rebounder for Wisconsin this season, averaging 7.1 rebounds a game (an improvement of 2.8 rebounds from last season). Over the last three games Hayes is averaged 7.3 rebounds a game and has done a much better job of boxing out over that stretch in getting better positioning against his man.
If the Badgers have missed opportunities to secure rebounds, they have done well this season in making sure their opponent can’t covert second-chance opportunities. Only three times has a Wisconsin opponent been able to reach double digits in second-chance points. Since Big Ten play started, Wisconsin is giving up an average of eight second-chance points and have held three of its five Big Ten opponents to single digits.
Wisconsin and Iowa are both out rebounding its opponents, as the Badgers are currently at a plus 6.4 and Iowa is a plus 3.7, but Iowa is averaging more rebounds per game than Wisconsin (38.6 to 34.2). Only Purdue has out rebounded the Badgers this season, and at the end of the game, whether or not UW wins the battle of the boards and limits the Hawkeyes second-chance points could be the deciding factor.
3-Pointer: Can Wisconsin win the defensive battle?
Iowa is coming off one of its best offensive performances against Ohio State by shooting 51.1 percent on 24-for-47 shooting from the field, well above its 42 percent field goal percentage on the season.
The key is limiting high percentage shots from around the hoop to the free throw line. Sixty-seven of Iowa’s 76 points against Ohio State came from inside the arc or from the free throw line and 30 of the 67 points came in the paint. On the flip side, Iowa is only hitting 31.3 percent of its 3-pointers, which ranks 12th in the Big Ten. Per usual, Wisconsin has been disciplined defensively and are only committing 13.4 fouls per game.
White is the only player for Iowa to attempt over 100 free throws and is making 83.2 percent of his attempts. Since Big Ten play started has started he has attempted 10.2 free throws a game, including 12 times against Ohio State. Hayes, who will likely defend White, is only averaging 1.6 fouls a game and needs to make sure he doesn’t fall for any shot fakes. If Hayes stays on his feet, it should prevent White from possibly getting any easy points down low.
Outside of not fouling at a high rate, Wisconsin has consistently taken care of the basketball and lead the Big Ten in turnovers (8.2 a game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6 per game). Wisconsin has only had five games this year where they have had double-digit turnovers and none in Big Ten play.
Iowa is an opportunistic defense, forcing its opponents into 14 miscues a game, and forced nine turnovers against the Buckeyes, including six from their starting guards. In particular Iowa has been successful at getting deflections, which has resulted in an average of 7.4 steals per game, third in the conference. White has been able to use his size to help him cut off passes, as he leads the team with 1.7 steals a game. There has been only five games this season in which he has failed to record a steal. Bronson Koenig and Josh Gasser will have to make sure they look where their intended pass is going before they pass the basketball.
On the flip side, Wisconsin has been able to force its opponents into 11.4 turnovers a game, and Iowa has had trouble taking care of the basketball with 12.3 turnovers a game. The more opportunities the better for Wisconsin, as the Hawkeye defense is only giving up 61.4 points a game.