Wisconsin got the balanced scoring it needed to knock off No.8 Iowa, but the biggest scoring lifts came from the unlikeliest of sources. After Wisconsin’s starters scored 67 of its 69 points in Sunday’s win over Illinois, the Badgers’ bench stepped up to get a total of 23 points and eight rebounds from three different sources.
The bench certainly needed to play a role if Wisconsin wanted to leave Iowa with a win, especially considering that Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ both struggled to establish an offensive rhythm. Hayes finished the game with 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting and Happ had five points on only four shots. Bronson Koenig led all scorers with 15 points and all his field goals attempts came from the 3-point line (4-for-6). Wisconsin finished the game 10-for-23 (43.5 percent) from three and shot 25-for-52 (48.1 percent) overall.
Khalil Iverson led the Badgers with nine points off the bench, seven of which came in the first half, as he did a very good job of consistently getting underneath the rim and finishing off post passes with thunderous dunks. Jordan Hill registered nine points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field and Charlie Thomas registered five points after not playing against Illinois or in the first half against the Hawkeyes.
Wisconsin’s offense was able to consistently respond every time Iowa went on a run. Twice the Hawkeyes led by as many as six in the second half, but even with Wisconsin going 3:35 scoreless to begin the half and 4-for-11 over the first 10 minutes, Wisconsin kept grinding on offense.
As a result things started to change over the last 10 minutes. Wisconsin shot 7-for-14 in that span with five different players registering a field goal in that stretch. Wisconsin’s run to take the game over started off with 3-pointers on consecutive possessions by Hayes (2-for-5 from three) and Koenig to tie the game up at 51. Over the last 10 minutes of the game, Wisconsin closed on a 22-8 run.
Despite Wisconsin strong shooting to end the game, the Badgers had stretches where they were sloppy with the ball, including two in the first four possessions of the second half. UW ended the game with 11 turnovers, leading to 11 Iowa points.
It was the Peter Jok Show in the first half and Wisconsin’s defense had a front row seat. UW could do little to stop Jok, who scored 17 of Iowa’s 34 first half points (and 17 of its final 22). However, things started to change after halftime when Zak Showalter became the primary defender. Showalter dealt with foul trouble early that forcing different players to rotate on Jok, who consistently took advantage and hit numerous wide-open shots in transition.
But Showalter’s aggressive style frustrated Jok in the second half. He didn’t attempt his first field goal until the 8:24 mark and his first made field goal didn’t come until the 6:01 mark, as he scored only four points on 1-for-6 shooting after the break. Iowa’s only points over the final six minutes were three free throws.
In fact, the entire Iowa offense struggled to make shots against the Badgers in the final 20 minutes. Wisconsin held Iowa to only 32.7 percent (18-for-55) from the field (26.7 percent in the second half) and the Hawkeyes to their lowest point total this season (59). The dagger for Iowa’s offense came when it went without a field goal over the last 6:01, missing its last eight field goal attempts.
After Jok’s game-high 21 points, Iowa got 13 points from Anthony Clemmons on 4-for-10 shooting and Jarrod Uthoff had 11 on 3-for-12 shooting. The next highest scorer for Iowa was Adam Woodbury with six points.
Wisconsin had to deal with foul trouble with Brown, Happ and Showalter each registered four fouls. Iowa went 18-for-25 from the line and gave up a season-high 20 offensive rebounds. Woodbury was the big beneficiary by grabbing 10 of his 18 rebounds on the offensive glass, leading to Iowa winning the rebounding battle 43-30. Despite generating plenty of second chances, Wisconsin countered by limiting Iowa to only 14 second-chance points and forcing 14 turnovers. UW generated eight steals, leading to four fast break points and 13 points off turnovers.
It was a back-and-forth game with each team trading baskets over the first 20 minutes, making it seem like the first team who could distance itself from the other would be the victor. That appeared to be Iowa when the Hawkeyes build a pair of six-point leads early in the second half. However, Wisconsin always had a counter, playing sound fundamental basketball down the stretch to register another impressive road win.
Everyone who played in the second half played a critical role in the win. The bench production might have been the biggest of all, as the 23 points on a combined 10-for-18 shooting by Hill, Iverson, and Thomas marked the best point performance in Big Ten play this year and is tied for the best performance from the reserves since the Siena game in November.
Outside of putting the ball in the hoop, the bench made their presence felt defensively with grabbing eight rebounds (Iverson and Thomas had three each), Hill and Iverson each registering a steal, Iverson having three assists and Iverson and Thomas each registered a block in the game. As you can see, Iverson was all over the place for UW.
You also have to give Thomas credit for being ready to go, especially after working on the scout team simulating Woodbury. Playing seven minutes to spell Happ, Thomas delivered a spark. His first shot was a put back in traffic to cut Iowa’s lead to four points and his 3-pointer (just his fourth make of the season) gave UW a 56-54 lead. The Badgers never trailed again, outscoring Iowa’s bench 23-4.
In addition to better play from the bench, Wisconsin delivered 28 points in the paint, generated eight second-chance opportunities and dished out 17 assists.
Game MVP: Zak Showalter. Showalter finished the game with seven points (3-for-6 from the field) but the defense he played on Jok in the second half was important to Wisconsin’s team success. Down the stretch Showalter made the plays in order to win the game, like ripping away a rebound from Woodbury and extending the lead to four with a driving layup with 1:15 remaining. And for a fitting ending, he registered a steal with 29 seconds off of Jok to help ice the game for Wisconsin. Showalter finished the game with six rebounds, two assists and zero turnovers.