MADISON - The Iowa Hawkeyes have practically perfected the art of beating Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers. At least they had, until the Badgers came roaring back from a nine-point second half deficit and ended up forcing two overtimes in a 74-70 win Wednesday night in the Kohl Center.
The Badgers rallied to tie up the game on a 10-2 run during the final minutes of the game after a sluggish start to the second half, but it took another last-minute 3-pointer from Traevon Jackson to send the game into overtime. And while the Badgers made just one field goal in the two overtime periods, a clutch 3-pointer by Sam Dekker, they made 13-of-14 free throws down the stretch to ice the game and snap a three-game losing streak to the Hawkeyes.
And while the Badgers did a lot of things to keep themselves in the game after Iowa started taking over the game, Ryan said their 10-2 run down the stretch was what really turned the tide for his team.
"Both teams were playing so hard. We both made some mistakes at crucial times. Shot selection became a little scary. But we just hung on, and hung on, and hung on some more," Ryan said after the game. "But to close that gap when we were down nine and to get it into the first overtime, that was really gutsy our the guys. We made some shots and gave ourselves a chance."
The Badgers started the game well, and had jumped out to a 27-17 lead with six minutes left to play in the half when Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery was called for a technical foul and it seemed like the game was starting to spin out of control for the Hawkeyes, who started the game shooting 42 percent from the floor, but turned the ball over four times to start the game. Jackson made one of the free throws, but the Hawkeyes bounced right back into the team that had been giving the Badgers fits for over a year.
The Hawkeyes closed the first half on a 12-3 run, and didn't let their momentum dissipate in the locker room. They slowly worked their way back from their original 11-point deficit and took the lead at 41-40 with 12 minutes left in the game, a lead that they wouldn't surrender until the Badgers tied the game up in the midst of their late-game run at 53. Senior center Jared Berggren said he was impressed with Iowa's competitiveness, especially in how they out-rebounded the Badgers in the game as a whole.
"That was obviously a tough battle out there," Berggren said. "They play hard and they've kind of had our number over the last couple meetings. I'd say they're as tough as any team in the Big Ten."
As a team the Badgers shot just 34 percent from the floor, including only 28 percent from behind the arc. But their defense held Iowa to just 34 percent shooting as well, which combined with a 73 percent mark from the free throw line was just enough for the Badgers to escape with a come-from-behind win.
"They've had our number for three [games] in a row. That's a taste that we didn't want to have anymore," Dekker said after the game. "They felt confident coming in here, they thought they were going to beat us, they thought they had our number, and for that time in the second half it kind of looked a little bleak there when we went down nine. But our guys rallied together, fought back, and props to these guys for rallying back and leading the charge."
The win moves the Badgers into a tie for fourth place in the Big Ten with Ohio State, and the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines are scheduled to come to Madison on Saturday for the only scheduled matchup this season between the two teams. The Badgers will need some time to rest after their starters combined for 169 minutes in Wednesday's win, but Dekker said the team is hopeful their win over the Hawkeyes will propel them into the home stretch of Big Ten play.
"Hopefully we can ride this wave and get a streak going," Dekker said.