After years of road woes, the Badgers are now 5-0 on the road in the Big Ten for the first time in nine years.
‘We're getting to be road warriors now," senior Kammron Taylor said with a laugh.
Thanks to 27 points from fellow senior Alando Tucker, the Badgers are doing all the little things right this season in order to win on the road, which was demonstrated in a dominating 57-46 victory over Iowa Sunday afternoon.
In front of a national television audience, Tucker continued to make a legitimate case that he should be the national player of the year. Tucker's 27 points, his tenth 20-point game of the season, was arguably his most efficient performance. Tucker made his first seven shots from the floor, finishing 11-for-14 against Iowa. Tucker's only misses came from the perimeter, as he was a perfect 9-for-9 on two-point field goals.
"I really liked the things he did," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said. "He worked so hard away from the ball to get post position and to get separation on the perimeter to attack and pull up. I don't know if he can do any better than he did today."
No matter where he pulled up to shoot from, the ball dropped for Tucker. In addition to his traditional alley-op dunk, Tucker scored on jumpers, dribble drives, fade aways and even on a three-pointer that bounced three separate times on the rim.
"Alando Tucker is going to be there to give you 20 points a night," Taylor said. "When he's hitting fall away jump shots, going through double teams and still scoring in the post, it just shows his will to win and it's fun to play with a guy like him."
While Tucker was lighting up the scoreboard, Iowa senior Adam Haluska had a night he won't soon forget. Coming in as the Big Ten scoring leader, Haluska shot three of 18 from the floor, including going 1-for-9 in the second half, and finished with 16 points. Without going 9-for-10 from the line, the Hawkeyes would have been blown out of their own arena.
"Shots just weren't going down for whatever reason," Haluska said. "As a shooter, I have to keep shooting and I did that for the most part today. As a team, they just weren't falling."
"He had some shots that I am sure he liked to have back," Ryan said. "They were open and they just didn't go down. I hope it had something to do with how we were wearing on him."
Coming into Sunday's game, Iowa possessed the leading scoring-duo in the Big Ten in Haluska (20.3 ppg) and Tyler Smith (15.6 ppg) while the Badgers' Tucker (19.2 ppg) and Taylor (13.3 ppg) ranked second in that respective category. That figure is sure to change as Haluska's running mate didn't fair much better than his captain.
After missing his first 12 shots, Smith finally got a bucket to go late in the first half. Other than a few baskets from in the paint, Smith found no rhythm shooting. Combine his 3-for-17 shooting performance with Haluska's and the Hawkeyes top two scorers finished a combined 6-for-35 shooting.
"We picked a tough night not to make shots and some of that has to do with us and the other has to do with Wisconsin making it tough," Iowa head coach Steve Alford said.
One of the main reasons for the Iowa offensive malfunction was the growing reputation of the Badger defense. Holding all seven Big Ten opponents under their scoring average so far in 2007, Wisconsin limited Iowa to just 16 makes on 57 tries, leaving Iowa with their worst shooting percentage of the season at 28 percent.
It got so ugly for Iowa that the Hawkeyes football recruits decided to leave the game early.
"We didn't allow Haluska and Smith to get loose," Taylor said. "We knew that in order for Iowa to be real successful, they need those two guys to score. We just focus our concentrative efforts on stopping them. Teams in the Big Ten know that we play pretty good team defense. Soon or later, people are going to start recognize that."
In addition to Taylor and Tucker, Brian Butch had a productive outing. After passing up the open shot and going into the locker room with three points, Butch found his touch, scoring 10 of his 13 points in the second half. With his 14 rebounds, Butch registered his fourth double-double of the season.
"I told him what my old coach told me, ‘Just such the blanking ball,'" Ryan said. "When you're obsessing about things, it's amazing how things can go wrong. Brian didn't shoot lights out, but he looked comfortable."
With another tough road test on Wednesday at Indiana, the Badgers are playing some of their best basketball of the season. More importantly, they are doing it at a treacherous place, on the road in the Big Ten.
"We are undefeated on the road and that is special," Tucker said. "Last year, we struggled on the road and doing the things we are doing now shows that we have matured as a program."