The seniors got it started, scoring 12 of UW's first 16 points, and junior Jon Leuer kept it going, as his game-high 18 points helped No.15 Wisconsin fuel an 18-0 run that was the difference in a blowout victory over Iowa, 67-40, Wednesday night.
"If I was a director, I couldn't have written a better script then it was tonight," said Hughes said with a grin, as the two seniors close their career with a 64-6 (.914) record at the Kohl Center. "Our team came out firing. The two seniors opened up the game, especially JBo. First possessions, right when he touched it (and made it). I knew it was going to be a good night."
Although Wisconsin (22-7, 12-5 Big Ten) is no longer in the running for a share of the Big Ten title, the victory clinched at least a fourth place finish for the ninth straight season under Bo Ryan and kept alive the chance for the Badgers to clinch the third seed for the league tournament, doing so by man-handleding a young, inexperienced Iowa team.
Wisconsin shot 54.9 percent (28-of-51) from the floor, 50 percent (6-of-12) from three-point range, held Iowa (10-20, 4-13) to 40 points (a season-low for a UW opponent) and watched as its two seniors didn't disappoint on their night.
Hughes, with his mom watching him for the first time in person, finished 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block.
"It was nerve wracking," said Hughes of having his mom in attendance. "The last time she watched me play was high school in a state game. We didn't win that game and I didn't play well. It's a good thing that we ended up on the left-hand side and I did OK."
Bohannon finished one rebound shy of his first career double-double (11 points, nine rebounds) and is averaged 17.4 points while shooting 61 percent from the floor in his last eight games.
"It didn't add anything," said Bohannon, a native of Marion, Iowa, "but it was kind of a cool situation how it played out."
Added Ryan: "We are certainly happy he matriculated here and has had a great experience here. We hope he has more left in him."
Leuer, starting his second straight game, made his presence known on both ends of the floor. His 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting were his most since scoring 21 points against Michigan State on January 6 and his mini 10-point run in the first half turned the game into a laugher well before halftime.
But just as opportunistic as he was offensively, Leuer again was a dominant post presence, registering five rebounds and three blocks, a big reason the Hawkeyes went scoreless for 7 minutes, 39 seconds during UW's first-half run.
"He's a terrific player, there's no question about that," Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said. "Look at what he did tonight. They're good without him. They're even better with him."
Since struggling with his shot (2-of-12, four points) in his return to Minnesota, Leuer has averaged 14 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in the past three games.
"Every game you get some more confidence with more experience that you play," Leuer said. "Obviously that Minnesota game, I didn't play how I wanted. The first game, just working the rust off, being a little tentative, but now being back with the guys, it just feels more fluid and I just feel I am in a rhythm with these guys."
Sophomore Aaron Fuller led Iowa with 14 points, but the Hawkeyes shot just 37.2 percent, scored only 16 first-half points (second-lowest of their season) and lost for the 12th time in the last 14 meetings in the series.
"It's obvious how good Wisconsin is," Lickliter said. "We haven't been at a level to be able to come into a place like this, concentrate on the task at hand and be successful. When you panic against Wisconsin, you are in big trouble."
Bohannon and Hughes scored UW's first seven points but couldn't fully pull away from Iowa in the game's first seven minutes. That's when Leuer took over the basketball game. He did his damage from the inside, registering dunks on consecutive possessions off of post feeds from Bohannon and Jordan Taylor to prompt an Iowa timeout to cut off the lane.
Leuer easily adapted, hitting back-to-back three-pointers, forcing Iowa to burn another timeout in less than two minutes.
"We did a couple of ball screens and Jordan found me on one and JBo found me on one," Leuer said. "The threes I hit, Jordan found me. My teammates were just finding me when I was open. It makes it easy to score when guys are doing that."
It got no better for Lickliter when he put his son, John Lickliter, into the mix. Hughes promptly greeted the redshirt freshman by picking his pocket and setting up Keaton Nankivil for a thunderous jam, pushing the lead to 30-10, and Iowa never threatened again.
"They got easy scores on our defensive mistakes and we got anxious," Lickliter said. "We know how good they are."
With Wisconsin leading 63-35 with 2:14 left in the game, Ryan made sure Bohannon, Hughes and Leuer got a curtain call. Getting substituted at once, Leuer jogged out of the way slightly to be sure the two seniors got the limelight, in what they hope is just the beginning to an exciting finish to the season.
"These guys know that this is a moment and the clock keeps ticking," Ryan said. "Think about two guys going over 1,000 points in the same year, playing on NCAA Tournament teams, conference championship teams, conference tournament champions and who knows what happens this year. That's pretty exciting. There are a lot of people that want to be Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes.