Free throws key Badger win

Wisconsin makes nearly twice as many charity shots as Iowa takes in 72-69 win

MADISON — The University of Wisconsin men's basketball team used the free throw line to its advantage Wednesday in coming from behind to defeat Iowa, 72-69.

As a group, the Badgers recorded season highs for free throws made (27) and attempted (35), connecting on a gaudy 16 of 21 in the second half alone. Senior forward Mike Wilkinson and sophomore guard Kammron Taylor led the Badgers, hitting 10 of 12 attempts and 9 of 12 respectively.

"We were being aggressive today," Taylor said. "When you're aggressive, you're going to draw contact and hopefully get the calls. I just think we did a good job of being aggressive today, our big men and our guards."

UW's top two scorers each connected on more free throws than the entire Iowa team, which hit 7 of 14 for the game.

"We didn't get to the bonus until a minute to go in the game," Iowa coach Steve Alford said. "They got to the line 21 more times than we did. That's a very difficult stat to overcome. We've really got to work hard to try to figure out why we foul so much and nobody else does."

Struggling to connect on shots out of the gates in the second half, the Badgers were able to keep themselves in the contest in large part because of their free throw shooting. Despite only connecting on one field goal in the first 7 ½ minutes of the second half, Wisconsin got to the free throw line six times in the same span, hitting four.

And then after Wisconsin regained the lead late in the game, the team's strong free throw shooting helped fend off Iowa down the stretch. Over the final two minutes, the Badgers made zero field goals, but connected on 8 of 10 from the free throw line.

"That was big for us," Wilkinson said. "It gave us a chance, when you're coming back, you have to spend so much energy. Getting to the free throw line gave us a chance to catch our wind every once in a while and it stopped the clock. You always want to score when the clock is stopped, especially when you're behind. We did a good job of that and just attacking and drawing fouls."

From the end of the first half, when Wilkinson tied the game up with two free throws with zero seconds on the clock, the Badgers were just more aggressive than their opponent. Attacking the Iowa defense is unquestionably the reason the Badgers were able to get to the free throw line as many times as they did. For Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, a lot of the free throw success is also a product of not settling for 3-pointers.

"We got fouled in the post," Ryan said. "The fact that we didn't take the same number of 3s and that we did try and get it inside … that usually forces contact of some kind. And then we were able to dribble attack and get guys on the move where their feet weren't planted and you tend to draw more fouls that way too. We didn't get a whole lot of those in our last game, this game we do. Maybe we learned something."

After getting to the free throw line a season-low six times against Minnesota in a road loss Saturday, the Badgers were able to rebound and attempt and make a season-high number of free throws Wednesday.

Wisconsin's 27 made free throws marks the fifth time this season the team has knocked down more than 20 free throws in a game. The Badgers are now 4-1 in those games.

"I know on the road it's going to be hard to overcome a 20-free-throw-attempt difference," Alford said. "That's going to be hard. We weren't able to do it tonight. And we almost did."

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