No. 22 Wisconsin tries to protect home court versus Iowa (Mar 02, 2017)

MADISON, Wis. — Iowa coach Fran McCaffery is well aware of the fact that No. 22 Wisconsin lost only one game out of 15 on its home court this season.

McCaffery admitted that he’s not daunted by the raucous atmosphere the Hawkeyes will face at the Kohl Center against the Badgers (22-7, 11-5 Big Ten) on Thursday night in their only regular-season meeting this season.

Iowa (16-13, 8-8) has six freshmen on its roster and McCaffery said he’ll prepare players as best as he can for the pressure factor in the hostile environment. Freshman guards Jordan Bohannon and Tyler Cook start for the Hawkeyes, and senior guard Peter Jok never won at the Kohl Center in his career.

“I don’t look at players as tough,” McCaffery said. “I look at players and teams and coaches.

“I don’t get intimidated by places. I get intimidated at times by teams and what they’re able to accomplish. What I’ve got to be able to do is get those guys to understand that we’re going to play a certain way. That, OK, we’ve got to deal with that? They’ve got to deal with us. OK, we do what we do, they do what they do, and that sort of eliminates any level of intimidation.”

Iowa won two straight games and is paced on offense by Jok, the Big Ten’s scoring leader at 20.6 points per game.

The Hawkeyes are fresh off an impressive 83-69 road victory at then-No. 24 Maryland last Saturday, boosted by Bohannon, who scored a career-high 24 points that consisted of 8 of 10 baskets from 3-point range.

Bohannon, who averages 9.7 points and 4.5 assists, has a Wisconsin connection in older brothers Josh and Zach, who both played for the Badgers.

Cook, who scored 21 at Maryland, has a tough challenge on defense in Madison. He likely will spend a majority of time guarding Wisconsin sophomore forward Ethan Happ. The 6-foot-10 standout is the Badgers top scorer (14.1) and rebounder (9.0), and is shooting 59.7 percent from the field.

Happ was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy on Wednesday, an accolade awarded to the nation’s top player. He is the only NCAA Division I player to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals in league games.

Meanwhile, the Badgers have toiled on defense in losing two straight road games and four of their last five. They allowed opponents to shoot 46 percent or better from the field in setbacks at Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State.

Wisconsin also has had spotty efforts from the foul line. The Badgers shot 52 percent from the free-throw line in an 84-74 loss to the Spartans. Senior forward Nigel Hayes finished 4 of 12 from the charity stripe. Wisconsin shot 65.8 percent from the free-throw line in 29 games, while opponents shot a 74.2 percent clip.

Several things need to occur for the Badgers to clinch a share of the Big Ten title with Purdue. Wisconsin needs to win its final two games and the Boilermakers to lose their regular-season finale at Northwestern on Sunday. The Badgers host Minnesota on Sunday.

Considering some of the late-season struggles, Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said the Badgers are fine. Gard mentioned veteran players have been through and persevered through adversity. The Badgers start four seniors — Hayes, forward Vitto Brown and guards Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter.

“Some of them have been through (struggles) before when they were younger and it’s part of it,” Gard said. “You don’t like to go through it, it’s not fun to go through, and it’s painful at times.

“They understand you can’t deviate too far from your plan. You adjust, try to get better and fix things that need to be fixed. They also understand to stay the course and not flinch in the moment.”