Tucker scored a game-high 27 points to lead Wisconsin to a 66-52 win over the visiting Hawkeyes Thursday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
The junior forward scored 17 points in the second half, including key back-to-back 3-pointers that broke Iowa's collective will midway through the second half.
Meanwhile, after a torrid start, Iowa's shooting approached absolute zero. After making 12 of their first 20 field goals, the Hawkeyes missed their last six shots of the first half, then missed their first 13 shots of the second half.
With six minutes left in the game, the Hawkeyes' second-half field goal percentage was a miserable 6 percent (1 of 18), with only a long Jeff Horner 3 and three free-throws to show for their troubles. Throw in the end-of-first-half slump and Iowa shot 4 percent (1 of 24) over 18 minutes of basketball.
"We went the better part of 12 minutes without a field goal and that's hard to get wins, let alone in this building and this league," Iowa coach Steve Alford said.
Wisconsin trailed 34-32 at halftime, but steadily pulled away in the second half thanks to Tucker's dominance and Iowa's sub-freezing shooting.
"Our offense just totally shut down in the second half," Alford said. "I was just discouraged that when that did happen our defense didn't tighten up and do the things that we needed to do. But we're not going to win a lot of games scoring in the 50s in this league."
Tucker, on the other hand, was awesome offensively, and he displayed a complete repertoire in picking the Hawkeyes apart. Tucker scored in the post, knocked down open jumpers and beat defenders off the dribble.
"I just think Tucker does a real good job of getting a feel for the flow of the game over a 40-minute period," UW coach Bo Ryan said.
"Tucker's terrific," Alford said. "He had a great game. He made shots, he made plays."
Tucker is not known for his 3-point shooting, but he stepped up and confidently stroked a triple from the right wing to give UW a 48-38 lead with 11:04 left to play. That shot came just 42 seconds after Horner's triple gave Iowa some sense of hope. Tucker proceeded to crush Iowa's spirits, stealing the ball from Horner and forcing the Hawkeye guard to foul him to stop a sure fast break. No matter. On the ensuing possession Tucker knocked down another 3 from the right wing to give UW a commanding 13-point lead. Iowa would draw no closer than within 12 the rest of the way.
"I think it kind of put a dagger in their hearts," Tucker said. "You make some tough plays. They are trying to stick with you and be tough and you make some tough plays. I got a steal and drew a foul on them. I saw their heads start going down at that point."
Whether it was Tucker's big shots or the accumulation of all of their misses, the Hawkeyes seemed to succumb to their fate the final 10 minutes of the game.
"First 30 minutes of the game I thought we were getting shots, we were executing the offense pretty good," Alford said. "It seems like when we start missing two or three shots in a row then it all just kind of snowballed."
Wisconsin's second-half performance made up for some shaky defense in the first 20 minutes.
"We just came in the locker room (at halftime) and we just said, we're going to have to lockdown on defense cause now we're in the Big Ten season and every game really counts," UW guard Kammron Taylor said. "We knew once we started getting stops on defense our offense was going to start clicking. That showed in the second half."
Iowa built an early 11-4 edge, with five points from Horner and four from center Erek Hansen leading the way. But the Badgers used a 7-0 run to take a 14-13 lead with 12:45 left in the first half.
Immediately after Michael Flowers' 3-pointer gave UW its one-point advantage, however, Iowa exploited the Badgers in transition. Doug Thomas leaked out on the ensuing in-bounds play and got behind UW for an emphatic alley-oop dunk.
With the game tied at 19-19, Iowa guard Adam Haluska fought his way through traffic for a transition layup. Iowa was off and running at its very next opportunity and took a 24-19 lead when Horner buried a 3 from the left wing 9:48 before halftime.
Tony Freeman's triple gave Iowa a 27-23 lead and Haluska's only made 3 of the game in seven tries made it 30-25.
Wisconsin had its chances to take the lead at the end of the first half, but Tucker and Greg Stiemsma missed the front end of one-and-one free-throw opportunities in the final two minutes and Tucker's looping one-handed runner went off the iron with two seconds left on the first-half clock.
Tucker, though, scored twice in the paint in the first two minutes of the second half to give UW the lead for good at 36-34.
Wisconsin shot 47 percent for the game while Iowa's field-goal percentage tanked from 46 in the first half to 17 in the second.
"We did not change anything (defensively)," Ryan said. "We just tried to draw attention to, ‘Look, just do the things that we practice everyday on our defensive schemes and hopefully they'll miss some shots.'"
"They went a little cold," Ryan said, "we got a little better."