Date/Time – Thursday March 2, 8 p.m. central
Arena – Kohl Center (17,287)
Television – ESPN (Rece Davis and Jim Calhoun)
Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Wisconsin leads 83-79 (Wisconsin leads 52-28 in Madison)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 67-59, on February 24, 2016, in Iowa City
WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS
3 Zak Showalter (6-3 Senior Guard, 7.9 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Senior Forward, 13.7 ppg)
22 Ethan Happ (6-10 Sophomore Forward, 14.1 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-2 Senior Guard, 13.9 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Senior Forward, 7.0 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
0 D'Mitrik Trice (6-0 Freshman Guard, 6.0 ppg)
1 Brevin Pritzl (6-3 Freshman Guard, 2.3 ppg)
21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Sophomore Forward, 4.0 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
A semifinalist for the Naismith Trophy, given to the top player in college basketball, Happ is averaging 14.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.2 bpg and 2.1 spg in just 27.4 minutes per game
IOWA PROBABLE STARTERS
0 Ahmad Wagner (6-7 Sophomore Forward, 5.0 ppg)
3 Jordan Bohannon (6-0 Freshman Guard, 9.7 ppg)
4 Isaiah Moss (6-5 Freshman Guard, 6.4 ppg)
5 Tyler Cook (6-9 Freshman Guard, 12.2 ppg)
14 Peter Jok (6-0 Senior Forward, 20.6 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
24 Brady Ellingson (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 5.0 ppg)
25 Dominique Uhl (6-9 Junior Forward, 4.1 ppg)
35 Cordell Pemsl (6-8 Freshman Forward, 8.8 ppg)
51 Nicholas Baer (6-7 Sophomore Forward, 6.9 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Jok has scored at least 30 points five times this season, tied for the most by a Power Five conference player. Ranked fourth among players from Power Five conference in scoring, Jok ranks first nationally in free throw accuracy, making 92.2 percent of his attempts (142-for-154).
LAST TIME OUT
EAST LANSING, Mich. – With a chance to move into a first-place tie in the Big Ten back on the table, No.16 Wisconsin fell flat again on the road by not staying consistent on offense and not sticking to its principles on defense in a humbling 84-74 loss to Michigan State Sunday.
“I’ve always felt we needed to get better,” Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said. “I’ve never been completely comfortable or satisfied … We have to continue to get better. We don’t talk too much about the race or anything, or coming down to the last week to the season.”
Freshman forward Nick Ward scored 22 points in only 19 minutes, fellow freshman Miles Bridges scored 12 of his 17 in the second half and sophomore Matt McQuaid added 11 of 15 points after halftime for the Spartans (18-11, 10-6 Big Ten), which shot 46.7 percent to register their 10th straight home win over the Badgers.
Going through a month seemingly unable to string together offensive success, Wisconsin has strung together consecutive games of shooting over 43 percent for the first time in over a month, a small victory even through the Badgers have shot less than 44 percent for the ninth straight games, went 5-for-28 from 3-point range and went 17-for-36 in the paint.
The problem now is the defense, long known as a strength for the program that is beginning to leak like a sieve, giving up at least 80 points in back-to-back Big Ten regular season games for the first time since March 1993.
Michigan State shot over 45 percent in each half, scored the most points against Wisconsin since March 1995 and relied heavily on its two fabulous freshmen to set the tone.
Ward scored 13 points and had seven rebounds in only nine minutes in the first half while Bridges – perhaps a one-and-done candidate – added seven rebounds, four assists and one turnover.
Wisconsin allowed the Spartans to shoot 41 percent on three, a growing trend considering the Badgers are allowing teams to shoot 45.1 percent from three over the last five games.
Ward and Bridges combined to go 11-for-13 from the free throw line, while McQuaid and Cassius Winston (10 points, eight assists) each made their four free throw attempts. Michigan State went 21-for-23 (91.3 percent).
Wisconsin wasn’t as fortunate. The Badgers went 13-for-25 from the line (52 percent), the ninth game this season the Badgers shot 60 percent or less than the line, and missed the front end of three bonus situations. Two of those misses came from Hayes, who finished 4-for-12 from the line.
Hayes also went 9-for-22 from the field to go along with 11 rebounds.
Koenig (17) and Zak Showalter (15) also reached double figures, but it wasn’t enough to give the Badgers their first win at Michigan State since 2004 because they dug another deep first-half hole it never could fully get out of.
Leading by six early, their biggest lead at the Breslin Center in more than five years, the Badgers couldn’t slow Ward attacking the paint and marking the open shooters. The Spartans went on a 25-9 run and UW stayed in catch-up mode.
UW's six-game win streak vs. Iowa has equaled its second-longest win streak against the Hawkeyes. The Badgers also beat the Hawkeyes six straight times from 2003-06. UW’s all-time series record is eight consecutive wins (1909-19).
Dating back to 2003, Wisconsin is 19-5 against Iowa.
Seven of the last 10 meetings, dating back to 2011, have been decided by seven points or less, with five of the last eight having been decided by five points or fewer.
Since Greg Gard came to Madison with Bo Ryan in the 2001-02 season, the Badgers have gone 12-1 at home against the Hawkeyes. Iowa's only win during that stretch came in a 72-65 win at Dec. 31, 2011.
Iowa’s Baer and Wisconsin’s Happ played on the same AAU squad (Quad-City Elite). Both Happ and Baer redshirted their freshman season in 2014-15.
Iowa’s Ellingson is from Menomonee Falls, Wis.
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Wisconsin’s embraced another road environment by being the stronger team down the stretch against the rested Hawkeyes, closing the game on an 8-1 run to deliver a 67-59 victory over No.8 Iowa at a stunned Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Tying the Big Ten record with its 16th straight winning season, Wisconsin took down the Hawkeyes (23-6, 11-4) for the sixth straight time – and ended their 16 game winning streak - with a complete team effort.
Koenig was the leading scorer but the Badgers got at least seven points from five other players, making up for foul-plagued Ethan Happ (five points, 2-for-4) and another off-shooting night for Nigel Hayes (3-for-11). Hayes scraped together 10 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:42 remaining to start an 8-1 run to end the game.
But what will really excite the fan base was the brunt of the contributions came from the youth of the roster. Khalil Iverson, who had scored two points in the last five games combined, delivered with nine points in 20 minutes. He added three rebounds, three assists and a handful of thunderous dunks, including a windmill slam that punctuated an 8-0 run that put UW up 53-51 with 8:46 left.
With Zak Showalter in foul trouble, Jordan Hill delivered another fabulous outing with nine points, two rebounds, two steals, an assist and no turnovers.
Even freshman Charlie Thomas, who was on the scout team all week, responded when he was called in for duty with five points. Just 3-for-11 from 3-point range this season, Thomas’ 3-pointer with 6:15 left gave Wisconsin a 56-54 lead, and UW wouldn’t trail again.
The Badgers shot 51.9 percent in the first half, a result of going 10-for-18 on 2-point shots and scoring 18 points in the lane, but trailed by as many as six in the opening minutes of the second half as Iowa hit timely shots and took advantage of spotty possessions.
From that point forward, Wisconsin became the rugged team. The Badgers chipped away on offense, brought tough pressure on defense and continued to get big contributions from uncommon places.
After shooting 40 percent in the first half, Iowa shot just 26.7 percent in the second half, including scoring three points and making no field goals in the final 6:01.
Wisconsin has equaled last season's win total and won at least 22 games for the 15th time in program annals.
UW has reached 20 wins for the 11th-straight season (longest streak in B1G), clinched a winning record in B1G play for the 17th-consecutive season and a top-four finish in conference play for the 17th straight season.
UW has allowed 80-plus points in back to back games for the first time since the 1992-93 season. Prior to that, UW had surrendered 80+ only twice in the previous 94 games.
The Badgers are committing an average of 16.3 fouls per game, third in the Big Ten and 29th-fewest in the N.C.A.A.
Iowa is 9-1 when allowing 70 points or fewer and 7-1 when committing 12 turnovers or less.
Jok has made 70 3-pointers and Bohannon has 68 triples. Iowa has never had two players both make 70+ 3-pointers in the same season.
Baer is one of only two Division I men’s basketball players this season to amass 200+ points, 35+ blocked shots, 40+ steals, and 30+ 3-pointers (Iowa State’s Deonte Burton).
The younger brother of former UW players Jason and Zach, Jordan Bohannon ranks first on the team in assists (4.5), second in minutes played (28.5), free throw accuracy (85.7) and 3-pointers made (68), and third in scoring. Bohannon has led Iowa in assists 19 times this season and scored at least 17 points six times.
With the results around the league, Wisconsin can lose its last two games and still finish in the top four of the Big Ten for the 17th straight season, extending its league record. And considering how things have played out over the last few weeks, that’s entirely possible.
Coming into the season with high expectations, Wisconsin’s late February swoon has cost the Badgers dearly. Once having a healthy lead in the conference standings, the Badgers now need to win tonight and Sunday and have Purdue lose at Northwestern to earn a share of the regular season title. UW is unlikely to be a great seed in the N.C.A.A. tournament and need to start stacking wins in order to show enough on its resume that the committee will have mercy on them and put them in the Milwaukee pod.
Mercy is exactly what a banged-up UW (both physically and mentally) needs after going 3-4 last month, its first non-winning February since 2000-01 and first losing February since 1998-99. On February 11, UW was 21-3 and 2-0 in the month, showing how quickly things have gone off the rails.
Even with a three-game losing streak that started with a double-overtime loss at Minnesota, Iowa had a better February than the Badgers (3-3) and are seeing its young players come of age.
Jok has been as advertised, one of 10 finalists for the shooting guard of the year award and the senior CLASS award, but the Hawkeyes’ second, third and fourth-leading scorers are all true freshman. Cook is second (12.2), followed by Bohannon (9.7) and Pemsl (8.8), and that trio scored 49 of Iowa’s 83 points in its upset win at Maryland. The Hawkeyes are starting to peak; Wisconsin is not.
Despite the recent bumbles, Wisconsin lost its last four games by an average of 8.5 points, showing that a complete overhaul isn’t needed. The one thing that is desired is for the veterans to start carrying the load.
Koenig and Hayes have fallen well short of their preseason expectations and have struggled offensively. Both played missed a combined 23 shots in Sunday’s loss at Michigan State. Happ has been held to single digits in scoring for four of his last six games, likely ending his chances to be Big Ten player of the year and a first-team All-American. Brown is 13 of 59 (22.0 percent) over the last nine games and has shown no signs of breaking out of his slump.
And for those calling for a shakeup with the starting lineup, UW has received 14 points or less from its bench in 12 of its conference games and –outside Trice – no real consistency in terms of play. Needless to say, this turnaround will be the senior’s lasting legacy.
In the Hawkeyes' last trip to Madison (2015), UW posted an 82-50 win over then-No. 25 Iowa, its most lopsided win over Iowa in series history. UW shot 58.1 percent in the 2nd half and averaged a season-high 1.52 PPP. UW tied a school record with just one turnover, while dishing 16 assists and committing only nine fouls. The Badgers out-scored Iowa, 36-12, in the paint and out-rebounded the Hawkeyes, 37-24 (15 O-Reb). The Badgers players would kill for that time of performance tonight.
The Badgers should be able to dominate the low post against Iowa, which is giving up 77.7 points per game, and generate second chances considering the Hawkeyes are last in rebounding defense (39.3)
Bottom line, if UW can bring its competitive defensive spirit, shutting down a Hawkeyes offense that is second in the conference in averaging 80.6 points per game, the Badgers win by 11.
If not, well, spring football starts soon.
Worgull's Record: 25-4
Points off Prediction: 247 (8.5 per game)