Sixth-ranked Wisconsin makes statement in obliteration of Iowa
MADISON, Wis. — The first-half game clock was winding down when Frank Kaminsky caught a pass on the right wing and briefly tucked the ball by his hip. He had nowhere to go, it seemed, temporarily trapped into an awkward spot on the floor. That is, until he lowered his head, took two slow baseline dribbles and somehow bounded past two Iowa defenders to find himself right under the basket through a sea of parted Hawkeyes.
Jump. Two-handed dunk. Crowd eruption.
It was a fitting conclusion to Wisconsin’s most dominant half of Big Ten play and perhaps its season, when everything else came just as easily. No. 6 Wisconsin never relented in obliterating No. 25 Iowa 82-50 on Tuesday night, one day after the Hawkeyes vaulted into the Associated Press top 25 for the first time this season. Considering a share of the Big Ten lead was on the line, it made the outcome seem even more impressive.
"I think we were as close to a complete 40 minutes as we’ve been all year," Badgers forward Sam Dekker said. "We were pretty happy with how we played defensively in the second half. They got a few easy looks, but overall I think it was one of our best 40 minutes of the year."
In a matchup of two teams that have traditionally been dead even, this was a one-sided, early-round knockout. Wisconsin posted its largest victory against a Big Ten opponent since defeating Northwestern by 32 points on Jan. 23, 2011. The Badgers outrebounded the Hawkeyes 37-24, which represented their largest edge in two years. And UW held Iowa to a season-low 17 first-half points, marking the fifth time this season Wisconsin has kept a team below 20 points in the first half.
Nine days earlier, Wisconsin led Rutgers 35-23 at halftime on the road. It was a game in which the Badgers played without Kaminsky, a national player of the year candidate. And UW collapsed in the second half during a stunning 67-62 defeat. That performance was on the mind of Badgers guard Josh Gasser, who reminded Wisconsin at halftime against Iowa to sustain momentum.
"The one Big Ten loss we had against Rutgers, what were we up 12 at half?" Gasser said. "And then we crapped the bed the second half. Even if we’re winning at halftime, you just want to complete it. You want to play a full 40 minutes because there’s going to be games where those shots aren’t going the first half like they were tonight. So you have to learn how to play a full 40 minutes. I think we did that."
Kaminsky recorded his Big Ten-leading eighth double-double with 13 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Dekker played as aggressive as he had all season and tallied 17 points and eight rebounds. Nigel Hayes (16 points) and Bronson Koenig (13 points) also scored in double figures for the Badgers.
In the process, Wisconsin (17-2, 5-1) showed it very well could capture its first Big Ten regular-season title since 2007-08 — and make a run at a national championship. Iowa (13-6, 4-2) certainly is not as bad as it played Tuesday night. But Wisconsin may be that good. The Badgers are off to the program’s second-best 19 game start, trailing only the 2006-07 team that began 18-1.
Perhaps the most impressive team stat line of the night was the fact Wisconsin recorded 16 assists and just one turnover, which occurred on a shot clock violation. UW tied a school record for fewest turnovers in a game. The only other time the Badgers finished with one turnover came against Michigan State on Feb. 28, 2008.
"One turnover, come on," Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. "I thought our guys did an excellent job making the extra pass, using good ball fakes. And as long as Iowa is, length, wingspan, things like that and quickness, you have to give our guys a lot of credit. There’s not too many times you can do that."
Wisconsin’s beatdown of Iowa continued into the second half in front of a sellout crowd of 17,279 fans, while the Hawkeyes played matador defense. Kaminsky collected a rebound off an airball and stuffed a dunk. Dekker freed himself for an easy backdoor reverse layup off an interior pass from Kaminsky on the next possession. Forward Duje Dukan dribbled down the lane uncontested and scored a left-handed layup.
"It takes tremendous concentration and effort to beat a team of this caliber, with this much experience," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "Anything short of complete effort and concentration, you’re going to struggle to win this game. I was disappointed in our execution when we got behind. . . . You can’t come into this environment, fall behind, and then quick-shoot the ball and expect to win. It’s just not going to happen, and it didn’t."
About the only thing that could have derailed Wisconsin’s night was an injury — particularly since Badgers point guard Traevon Jackson is out roughly six weeks with a broken right foot sustained against Rutgers. Badgers guard Josh Gasser actually left the court Tuesday night and walked to the training room after holding his left shoulder during the second half. But he returned soon thereafter and entered the game again after being medically cleared.
Afterward, Gasser declined to address the injury.
"I don’t know," he said. "I’m all right, though."
So are the Badgers, who already appear to be rounding into national championship contender form.
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