MADISON, Wis. — Pick a set of adjectives to describe Wisconsin’s performance against Iowa during the New Year’s Eve clunker, and it likely won’t do justice to how poorly the Badgers’ basketball team actually played that afternoon.
Atrocious. Ugly. Embarrassing. Uninspiring.
According to Ken Pomeroy’s probability percentages, Iowa’s 72-65 stunner of then-No. 11 Wisconsin in the Kohl Center ranked as the third-biggest upset of the college basketball season (the top two were Presbyterian beating Cincinnati and Tennessee-Martin defeating Alabama-Birmingham). Considering the Badgers had won 93 percent of their home games in coach Bo Ryan’s first 10 years, maybe it was bigger than that.
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“We kind of got our butts kicked,” Badgers forward Mike Bruesewitz said.
Badgers stunk up the joint so fierce that the stench of misery clung to
them for the next week. They lost three straight games and
uncharacteristically tumbled into the bottom half of the Big Ten
standings. They’ve since ascended back into the upper echelon of the
conference after winning eight of 10 games.
So No. 16 Wisconsin
(20-7, 9-5 in Big Ten play) can be expected to take out its frustrations against Iowa
(14-13, 6-8) on Thursday in the rematch in Iowa City.
“They exposed us a little bit,” Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser said. “We
obviously didn’t play our best game when they came down here. It kind of
set the tone for the Big Ten that we didn’t want.
we’re back on track here and ready to go. We’re ready to get a win
against a team that beat us before, so that just makes it a little
sweeter to get one.”
A number of factors led to the Dec. 31 loss,
but Badgers players say their inability to stop Iowa’s fast break
proved pivotal. Wisconsin did itself no favors by bricking multiple
3-pointers, sending the Hawkeyes down the court off long rebounds.
As if the Badgers needed any motivation, here are just a few of the unsavory facts from that Dec. 31 contest.
• The Badgers missed 25 of their 3-point attempts (3 for 28) and shot a season-low 10.7 percent from long range.
“That 40 minutes was not something that shooting-wise we can say we put any highlights from the game into any film,” Ryan said.
• Wisconsin allowed a season-high 72 points and 49.2-percent field-goal shooting.
• The Badgers surrendered 14 fast-break points, the second-worst mark this season by Wisconsin’s typically slow-tempo team.
• Iowa won at Wisconsin for the first time since 2000, snapping a streak of nine straight losses in the Kohl Center.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said the victory showed the true talent level of his Hawkeyes team this season and provided a much-needed confidence booster. Since that time, Iowa has also beaten ranked conference foes Michigan and Indiana at home, although the Hawkeyes also have lost to Nebraska, Northwestern and Penn State, among others.
“I think a lot of people go back to that game,” McCaffery said. “(Wisconsin) has been consistently as good as any team in college basketball in the last 12 years and seemingly unbeatable there. We knew we had to go in there and play a near perfect game, and that’s kind of what we did. All the things that have to happen if you’re going to beat Wisconsin, we did.
“I think it was an example of what we’re capable of. We’ve done that again, but we haven’t done that as consistently as they have.”
Iowa might have to play without guard Bryce Cartwright, who scored 17 points in the first game against Wisconsin but is questionable for Thursday. He has missed the last two games after suffering a high-ankle sprain in practice on Feb. 11.
Ryan said his team’s strategy will remain the same regardless of Cartwright’s availability. He also suggested that the idea of seeking revenge on the Hawkeyes is silly.
“I’ve been around too long,” he said. “I know that doesn’t make you play better. . . . Revenge is a word that I’ve never used. It’s a negative word. So I don’t use it.”
If Cartwright can’t play, the Hawkeyes will rely even more on 6-foot-5 senior guard Matt Gatens, the team’s leading scorer at 14.8 points per game. Gatens, an Iowa City product, is such a fan favorite that Thursday’s game is actually “Matt Gatens Bobblehead Night,” and the first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a free bobblehead.
Gatens is one of three Hawkeyes who averages double figures scoring, along with guard Roy Devyn Marble (11.1 points) and forward Aaron White (10.4).
Wisconsin, meanwhile, counters with a trio of double-digit scorers in point guard Jordan Taylor (14.5 points), forward Ryan Evans (10.5) and center Jared Berggren (10.4).
Taylor and Berggren combined to make two of 12 3-point attempts in the first game. While that total sounds bad, it also means the rest of the team hit one of 16 tries.
The Badgers would do well not to miss that many 3-point attempts this time around and avoid another unexpected clunker against the Hawkeyes.
“I’ve got a lot of shooters,” Ryan said. “It’s makers that are hard to find sometimes.”