The fourth ranked Badgers (23-2, 9-1 Big Ten) had recently beaten the Northwestern Wildcats and were trying to beat the Hawkeyes for the second time this year. Iowa (14-10, 6-4 Big Ten) had a three game winning streak that came to halt Saturday at the Kohl Center.
That's not to say that this game was easy for Wisconsin, because it clearly didn't begin that way.
At the end of the first half both teams played very evenly with the Badgers down 35-31. The biggest lead gained by either team was only six points, held by the Badgers.
"I thought the first half we did some very good things," said Iowa Coach Steve Alford.
Both team's stats for the first half were similar with the Badgers shooting 36 percent, grabbing 20 boards, and committing only five fouls. The Hawkeyes shot 47 percent, got 17 rebounds and were called for nine fouls. The difference between those two stat lines indicates that Wisconsin wasn't shooting a high enough percentage to take the lead.
In their last meeting, the Hawkeyes were the ones who shot a terrible percentage at just 28 percent for the game on January 28th. Wisconsin won that game 57-46 in Iowa City, with Tucker scoring 27 points. With the added advantage now of playing on their home court the Badgers were tried to readjust coming out of halftime.
Alando Tucker was able to generate some momentum for the Badgers by scoring his 2,000th career point for the Badgers within the opening minutes. He received a standing ovation for his success so far at Wisconsin.
"It's a lot, it's exciting, but right now it hasn't sunk in yet," said Tucker.
He finished the half contributing his normal stats with eleven points shooting 3-for-5 from the floor, made his only three point shot, added three boards, and hit 4-for-5 free throws in just 16 minutes. He finished with 21 points and seven rebounds.
In the second half he struggled with his shot, making only 4-for-12 of his shots. During one stretch he missed even missed five straight.
Although they usually don't begin halftime at home with a deficit, Wisconsin has the experience to understand what it takes to win. When the Badgers are trailing at home at halftime they have finished 11-5 under coach Bo Ryan.
"We didn't make some really good decisions with the ball," said Ryan about the Badger's play in the first half. "Thank goodness it's a 40-minute game."
The Badger's second half momentum began after a Jason Bohannon three point shot clanked off the rim, but then seconds later Taylor hit a three pointer of his own following an offensive rebound.
The shots that might have been missing their mark earlier in the game for the Badgers now started to fall.
The second half proved to be much kinder on the rim for Wisconsin. The team shot an improved 53 percent in the second half and 45 percent for the game.
"We just gotta shoot them, and in the first half there was a couple of open shots that didn't fall, but you just gotta shoot them," said Badger Brian Butch.
Butch was able to contribute with 15 points and seven boards. On many occasions he was able to shoulder some the load when Tucker's shots weren't falling. Butch even made 2-for-4 on three point attempts.
"It was about time that I actually did something here to help this team," Butch said. "There's been a couple of games down the road in the past where I haven't played real well."
Butch also emphatically put all hopes of a Hawkeye upset to sleep by rejecting Tyler Smith's baseline lay-up emphatically with under a minute to play.
Much of Iowa's success this season has come from guard Adam Haluska, the Big Ten's leading scorer at 21 points per game and last week's National Player of the Week.
The Badgers did a decent job of holding him to only 16 points on 7-for-20 shooting. His three point shot was not falling either as he only made 1-for-5.
"It isn't just one person, its everybody," said Ryan on how they slowed Haluska. "I thought we did a good job of it in the second half."
The free throw shooting by both teams was rather poor for the game as Wisconsin made just 8-for-17 compared to Iowa's 5- for-10.
The rebounding differential between these teams gave a decisive advantage to the Badgers. The Badgers grabbed 42 rebounds, including and impressive 13 on the offensive end. Compared to the Hawkeye's 33 total rebounds.
"We just treat an offensive rebound as grabbing life by the horns, and riding it," said Ryan. "Our guys got some of those."
With the Badgers shooting a much better percentage in the second half and grabbing more rebounds, the Hawkeyes never had a chance the way Wisconsin controlled the game.
The Badgers are trying to build momentum off victories over their conference foes before the Big Ten Tournament begins. This victory proved that they could beat a tough opponent in a game that they need to win.
"We all have to step our play up to finish this off," said Tucker. "It's gonna be a tough road."