After a first half in which Wisconsin shot uncharacteristically poorly and struggled to find its rhythm, it looked like the Badgers were in for a dogfight on their home floor.
But Kirk Penney and Devin Harris turned that around quickly following the break, storming out of the locker room to give the Badgers 11 points in less than two minutes. Wisconsin used the rally to deliver Iowa its first Big Ten loss, knocking off the Hawkeyes 74-61 Wednesday night at the Kohl Center.
Harris led the Badgers with 17 points, going 5-for-6 from the field. Harris missed the final 6:55 of the first half, getting into early foul trouble for the second consecutive game. But his performance in the second half helped Wisconsin pull away from a tight contest.
After toiling away offensively throughout the first half, the Badgers immediately caught fire following the break, scoring 11 points in less than two minutes. Kirk Penney hit three 3-pointers in the first six minutes after being held to just two points in the first half.
"I'd love to tell you that it was something I said at halftime," said Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan. "We just directed our comments to things we had to correct, kept working for the good shots, and they started going down."
Iowa was led by freshman Greg Brunner, who had 14 points and seven rebounds, hitting 7-of-8 shots from the field. Chauncey Leslie and Sean Sonderleiter both contributed 10 points.
Wisconsin trailed 26-25 at the half, but buried 20-of-31 shots in the second stanza, pulling away with the victory. The Badgers improved to 13-4 on the season (3-2 Big Ten).
Penney, who entered the game leading the Badgers with a 16.1 point average, missed his first six shots from the floor, finishing the first half with just two points. But he quickly found his stroke in the second stanza, hitting two quick 3-pointers to give the Badgers an eight-point lead.
A steal and transition dunk by Harris on the following possession forced Iowa Coach Steve Alford to take a timeout at the 17:53 mark with UW leading 38-28 and a boisterous, sold out crowd making things even more difficult for the visiting squad.
Freddie Owens, who was held scoreless in the first half, buried the Hawkeyes late in the game with torrid shooting. He hit all five of his shots in the second half to finish with 11 points.
Despite hitting just 9-of-29 attempts in the first half, the Badgers finished the game at 48 percent from the field, equaling their average entering the game. That percentage ranks second in the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes (11-4, 3-1 Big Ten) were the team with the hot hand in the first stanza, outmuscling the Badgers inside. Twelve of Iowa's first 14 points came inside the paint, and the Hawkeyes outrebounded Wisconsin 20-12 heading into the break.
But Alford said his team needed a more substantial lead at halftime to hold Wisconsin down on its home floor.
"When you're on the road, you have to go into the locker room with an 8-9 point lead," Alford said. "I thought our guys backed down instead of fighting, and we just had too many poor performances to battle against this kind of team."
Wisconsin kept the score close early because it took care of the ball. The Badgers, who rank second in the Big Ten in fewest turnovers (11.7 per contest), had only five turnovers while the Hawkeyes had 17.
Iowa struggled early in the season with turnovers, but had corrected that problem in recent games. Alford said his frontline was accountable for 12 of the 17 mistakes.
"We got careless, and I thought their guards really dominated our guards," Alford said.
Iowa was the first team during Big Ten play to expose Wisconsin's lack of height. Despite starting just one player taller than 6-5, Wisconsin has only been outrebounded in four games this season. But Iowa won the battle of the boards, outrebounding the Badgers 30-21.
The Badgers have a bye this weekend, with a full week to prepare for Northwestern on Jan. 29. The Hawkeyes return home to face Ohio State Saturday afternoon at 1:34 p.m.
UW Knocks Off Iowa, 74-61
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