Strong defense and two turnovers on the offensive gave Iowa a big lead over Wisconsin at halftime Saturday.
The Badgers nearly washed the lead completely away but the Hawkeyes were able to finish off the win at the foul line and honored Hawkeye legend Chris Street by beating the Badgers for a third straight time, 70-66, at a sold out Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“We ran it and drove it. You've got to run. You've got to drive and you've got to throw it in and you've got to get to the free throw line and you've got to get transition baskets,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said.
“You just go toe to toe at halfcourt, they are typically better than whoever they play at that game. So we changed it a little bit.”
Iowa (13-5, 2-3) jumped out to a fast start against Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes led 20-6 midway through the first half and then went up 30-10 five minutes later.
After Wisconsin fought all the way back in the second half and got as close as three points with 0:24 seconds to play, the Hawkeyes finished off the win by making 10-of-12 free throws in the final 1:14.
It is the first three-game win streak over Wisconsin in 20 years, and the loss for the Badgers was their first in the league. The Badgers also moved out of first place in the Big Ten by a half a game.
The difference in the game came at the foul line, where Iowa finished 24-of-29 and Wisconsin was just 8-of-12.
“You know, our game plan was to drive the ball, throw it inside, attack them,” McCaffery said. “They don't play a lot of guys typically, and you don't want to settle for jumper after jumper and you want to attack, and you want to put them in a position where they are going to foul you, and they did.”
Aaron White finished with 17 points in the game and was 13-of-15 from the line. He went 5-of-6 in the closing minute to seal the win for the Hawkeyes, who have now on two straight in Big Ten play.
Roy Devyn Marble also hit 3-of-4 at the line for the Hawkeyes and scored 13 points along with five boards.
Marble also hit a big 3 with 2:36 to play to push the lead back to nine.
“It was huge,” McCaffery said. “We struggled a little bit, we were sputtering a lead. So you milk the clock, then you hit a step back three, that's huge.”
The other two free throws down the stretch were put in by Anthony Clemmons, who finished with 10 points, three assists and three rebounds.
Freshman Mike Gesell scored nine of his 11 in the first half and also finished with four boards.
The Badgers first got the lead into single digits with 4:07 to play in the game. George Marshall then buried a 3 with 0:24 seconds to cut the margin to three. But that was as close as the Badgers would get.
The 70 points scored for Iowa ended the Badgers’ run of not allowing an opponent to score more than 60 points at 11 games.
“Every game, you're not surprised at what happened,” McCaffery said. “Even if it's an upset, or what you perceive to be an upset, you're not really surprised by that either.”
Marshall scored 10 points in the final 1:07 to make things interesting. He finished with 20 points in the game and made 7-of-10 from the field.
Wisconsin freshman Sam Dekker ended up with 13 points, four assists and four rebounds. Ben Brust, who was booed by the fans every time he touched the ball, finished with seven points. The Badgers did hit eight triples in the game.
Both teams are now 13-5 on the season. The Hawkeyes improved to 2-3 in league play and will travel to Ohio State to face the Buckeyes on Tuesday.
“Obviously Ohio State is a tremendously talented and ranked team, and they have cleaned our clocks the last two times we've played them,” McCaffery said. “So we are going to have to play substantially better than we did in the second half tonight.”
Carver-Hawkeye Arena was pumping Saturday night. The sold-out crowd was part of a halftime ceremony that honored the legendary Chris Street, who died unexpectedly after a snow plow struck Street’s automobile. … Iowa left a seat on the bench open for Street’s jersey. The school also had a halftime ceremony to honor the former Hawkeye. “There was an energy level in the building that I've never seen before. I've been in a lot of buildings in my playing and coaching career, and nothing like that. There's not a doubt in my mind, there was a difference,” McCaffery said. … Brust originally committed to Iowa before changing his mind after Iowa coach Todd Lickliter was fired.