Date/Time – Wednesday, February 24, 8 p.m. central
Arena – Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,500)
Television – Big Ten Network (Kevin Kugler, Shon Morris and Lisa Byington)
Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Wisconsin leads 82-79 (Iowa leads 50-28 in Iowa City)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 74-63, on January 31, 2015, in Iowa City, IA
WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS
3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Junior Guard, 7.7 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Junior Forward, 16.7 ppg)
22 Ethan Happ (6-9 Freshman Forward, 12.1 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Junior Guard, 13.4 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Junior Forward, 9.3 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
11 Jordan Hill (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 2.9 ppg)
15 Charlie Thomas (6-8 Freshman Forward, 2.7 ppg)
21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Freshman Forward, 2.6 ppg)
24 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Freshman Forward, 2.8 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Koenig is shooting 41.3 percent from 3-point range in Big Ten play. The junior has hit a triple in 38 consecutive games, the 3rd-longest streak in the country.
IOWA PROBABLE STARTERS
5 Anthony Clemmons (6-2 Senior Guard, 9.0 ppg)
10 Mike Gesell (6-2 Senior Guard, 8.5 ppg)
14 Peter Jok (6-6 Junior Guard, 16.3 ppg)
20 Jarrod Uthoff (6-9 Senior Forward, 18.8 ppg)
34 Adam Woodbury (7-1 Senior Center, 8.3 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
0 Ahmad Wagner (6-7 Freshman Forward, 2.6 ppg)
25 Dom Uhl (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 6.8 ppg)
51 Nicholas Baer (6-7 Freshman Forward, 4.7 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Averaging career bests in scoring, rebounds (3.3), assists (6.2), field goal percentage (.413), and 3-point accuracy (.389), Gesell is two steals from becoming the fourth Hawkeye to ever amass 1,000 points, 500 assists, and 150 steals.
LAST TIME OUT
MADISON – The Wisconsin team that began the season likely would not have been able to pick itself off the court after trailing by as many as 13 points. But the team that has now won eight of nine certainly did, executing a 28-4 run that ignited the crowd, saw shooting become contagious and keep itself a half game out of fourth place after a 69-60 victory over Illinois.
After missing its first three shots in the second half, Wisconsin (17-10, 9-5 Big Ten) made 11 of its final 13 to register the program’s biggest comeback since erasing a 15-point deficit to beat No.1 Ohio State in Feb. 2011.
“We were resilient and matured a little bit tonight,” said junior Bronson Koenig, “which is good to see.”
Avoiding its fourth sub-100 RPI loss at home, nobody has matured more in the last two games than freshman Ethan Happ. After scoring 18 points against Michigan State, Happ finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high six steals.
It was Happ’s eighth double-double of the season, a stark contrast from scoring only six points in the team’s first meeting in Champaign Jan.31, and production that was critical throughout.
His nine points and seven rebounds were one of the few bright spots in a first half that saw Wisconsin go 8-for-28 from the field and 1-for-13 from 3-point range, while his six points, four rebounds and four steals over the 10:04 run was the fuel that kept Wisconsin’s fire burning.
Happ wasn’t the only player to find his footing. Hayes had missed 17 of 18 shots dating back to Thursday’s 69-57 loss at No.8 Michigan State, but scored six of his 17 points on a 15-0 run to put the Badgers in front 48-46 with 6:27 to go. After not making his first field goal until the 11:55 mark of the second half, Hayes went 3-for-4 the rest of the way.
Koenig and junior Zak Showalter were equally important. Koenig scored 12 of his 14 point after halftime and hit a vital 3-pointer – one of only five makes on 20 attempts for UW - with 7:11 remaining to the score at 46.
Showalter scored all seven of his points in the second half while added five assists, four rebounds and plenty of hustle plays.
Admitting there was a hangover from the Michigan State loss two days earlier, Wisconsin struggled for flow on both ends in the first half and right after halftime, contributing to scoring only one point over an 11 possession stretch that dug the hosts into an 11-point deficit
But there was no stopping them when they finally figured things out, scoring 34 points over their final 19 possessions with only two empty possessions. Part of that came with UW attacking the rim and drawing the second half’s first seven fouls, getting into the bonus with 12:43 remaining and going 26-for-33 from the line.
Losing its 10 straight to Wisconsin, Illinois (12-15, 4-10) made eight of its first nine shots (88.9 percent) in the second half and led by as many as 13 points with 12:22 remaining but quickly cooled. For the remainder of the game, Illinois had 12 fouls to only three made field goals, a result of how the Badgers altered guarding the ball screen.
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Senior center Frank Kaminsky continued his march to Big Ten Player of the Year with a scintillating 24 points and nine rebounds and got plenty of help from his fellow starters in No.5 Wisconsin’s 74-63 victory over Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Wisconsin (19-2, 7-1 Big Ten) put four players in double figures and completed the season sweep of Iowa (13-8, 4-4) for the second straight season. Hayes scored 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting, Sam Dekker scored 9 of his 11 in the first half and Josh Gasser added 11.
It wasn’t quite as emphatic as Wisconsin’s 32-point blowout at the Kohl Center 11 days earlier, but the Badgers’ willingness to throw their weight around in the second half certainly spoke volumes.
After the Hawkeyes shot 64 percent and scored 22 of their 36 first-half points in the paint, Wisconsin shut down the interior, resulting in Iowa going 1-for-10 from the field over a 12 minute span and only scratching out 10 points in the paint.
Even more efficient was the Badgers allowing just seven second-chance points off seven offensive rebounds, switching screens and playing more aggressive to take Iowa out of its first-half rhythm.
Aaron White led Iowa with 15 points, who for the second straight game in the series shot themselves out of the win column. After shooting 28 percent in the first half in Madison, Iowa – which shot 64 percent in the first half - finished at 30.4 percent in the second half.
Wisconsin has currently won five straight games against Iowa, including the last two in Iowa City. A UW win tonight would equal its second-longest win streak against Iowa. The Badgers beat the Hawkeyes six straight times from 2003-06. UW’s all-time series record is eight straight (1909-19).
The Badgers have won 18 of the last 23 against Iowa.
Prior to last season’s 32 and 11-point wins, each of the previous seven UW vs. Iowa games had been decided by seven points or less with the average margin of victory being just 3.9 points. That includes a pair of overtime contests.
Since 2013, UW has won eight of its last 11 games vs. teams in the AP top five, owning the most such wins in the B1G.
With one more Big Ten win, the Badgers would clinch a winning conference record for the 16th-consecutive season, matching Purdue (1972-88) for the longest such streak in Big Ten history.
Over the last nine games, no team in the Big Ten has gotten to the free throw line more than Wisconsin. The Badgers are 172-241 (71.4 percent) from the stripe over that span, averaging 26.8 FTAs/game.
The Badgers have held 15 of their last 19 opponent below 1.0 points per possession.
The last time Iowa was in first place in the Big Ten this deep in the season was Feb. 23, 2006.
The Hawkeyes have won nine of their 13 league games by double figures, and their six losses have come by a combined 29 points (each by single digits).
Through 26 games this season, the Hawkeyes are averaging 8.6 triples, which ranks fifth in the Big Ten and 48th nationally.
Iowa's bench is averaging 19.1 points, 14.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.8 blocks this season.
Minus Illinois, what do the bottom six teams in the Big Ten have in common with Wisconsin? They’ve only played the Badgers once this season. Now look at the top four teams in the conference and the Badgers have played Indiana, Maryland and Michigan State twice. For the youngest team in the conference, and one that was 1-4 in the league, the Badgers have certainly exceeded expectations.
If they can knock off Iowa, UW would run its streak of consecutive conference winning seasons to 16. It won’t be easy, especially with the Hawkeyes having a team built much like the Badgers were a season ago. Iowa starts four seniors and a junior who have a combined 19 years of college basketball experience, have a lot of battle scars and are as good as anyone in the league.
And while Gesell is an underrated point guard and Woodbury is averaging 11.8 rebounds over the last five games, the real threats for teams are Uthoff and Jok. Combining to average 35.1 points through 26 games, they are the third highest scoring duo at Iowa the last 40 seasons.
The former Wisconsin forward has developed into the player the staff thought he would. Uthoff is the only player from a power five conference this season with 490+ points, 170+ rebounds, and 75+ blocks this season, showing some of the things this season on the court he showed during his redshirt season at Wisconsin.
And while UW could be salty publicly of how Uthoff left town, head coach Greg Gard took the high road and said the whole situation was “water under the bridge.”
“He continued to mature and develop and continue to work at his game, which he did work at it,” said Gard. “He's a hard worker and puts a lot of time in – (a player) that you would expect to have success. That's a credit to him for how he's had a handle (transferring) … He's persevered and continued to work and has really gotten better as his career has gone on.”
Although his weight is only listed five pounds heavier than a year ago, Jok’s improvement physically and confidence in his game has improved, which has resulted in big numbers. Averaging 21.3 points over the last six games, Jok is first on the team in 3-pointers made (63) and free throw percentage (83.7 percent) and has increased his points per game by 9.3 (second largest in the Big Ten).
“The biggest thing that jumps out to me on film is just physically, his size,” Gard said of Jok. “I remember him in high school. He had battled some injuries, and maybe he couldn't develop as fast as he wanted to strength-wise. But he physically looks really good right now in terms of strength. He's long. He can really shoot it. He's added other parts to his game. He handles the ball much better than he did when he was younger. I think he's just evolved as a player.”
Iowa has won 16 straight home games, dating back to last February. The Hawkeyes are 13-0 at home this year, averaging 83.5 points and a +16.9 average margin of victory in those games. Wisconsin is definitely good enough to go on the road and win, especially with the way Iowa has been playing the last few games (questionable defense, free throw struggles and bench inconsistencies).
But while Wisconsin caught Maryland off guard in a week off between Big Ten opponents, I don’t think the Badgers will get as lucky with the Hawkeyes. Will I be surprised if UW won? No, but I’m going with Iowa by seven.
Worgull's Record: 20-7
Points off Prediction: 244 (9.0 per game)