Another big lead. Another tough loss for the 22nd ranked Iowa men’s basketball team.
Searching for their first signature road win of the season, the Hawkeyes led by 11 at halftime but once again couldn’t come up with the big plays when they needed them the most.
The end result was a 75-71 loss in front of 17,249 fans at the Kohl Center and an ejection of a fired-up Fran McCaffery as well.
“I’m sick and tired of losing to teams we’re better than,” said Iowa’s Aaron White, who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds and has scored in double figures in all five games he’s played against Wisconsin. “We get up, we prove we can play and beat these teams, and then we let them back into the game and end up losing down the stretch. I’m sick of that happening.”
White has a point. Iowa controlled the game for the entire first 20 minutes and then still had a chance to win late in the game despite McCaffery not being around to guide them.
But it was the same old script – missed free throws down the stretch, missed opportunities inside the lane and lack of execution on defense.
"We showed we're a good team, but we have to be able to play a little better to get the win," said McCaffery. "We're close in that regard. Melsahn's defense on (Sam) Dekker was fabulous. At crunch time, (Roy Devyn) Marble and White were the guys, and we need somebody else to step up."
Marble finished with a game-high 27 points but needed 24 shots to do it, while White had 12 points and eight rebounds. No other Hawkeye reached double figures.
The difference maker for the Badgers, who improved to 15-0 on the season, was Ben Brust. Brust, who originally committed to Iowa but changed his mind after Todd Lickliter was fired, scored all 19 of his points after halftime. He buried three 3-pointers and was 6-of-6 from the line.
When asked if he thought the two technical fouls called against him cost his team the game, McCaffery said no. He felt like the game was lost early in the second half when Iowa let a big lead slip away, mainly because Brust finally got going.
“We lost the game at the beginning of the first half,” McCaffery said. “We let Brust get going and we took too many quick shots. You can go on the road against a ranked team and quick shoot the ball when the momentum is shifting.
“You can get 3s against them. They’ll let you. But you need to mix it up. You just can’t jack and when do that, you’ll get beat. You can’t do that against this team.”
McCaffery, who was ejected with 11:51 to play in the second half, couldn’t comment about his technical fouls, the officials or his view on the ejection. It is not allowed by rules. He did admit that he went after and deserved the first technical. The second one was not warranted though.
“I would never say that,” said Marble when asked if McCaffery’s ejection cost Iowa the game. “It’s a combination of everybody. Coach McCaffery goes to war for us and we’re going to do the same. The second half, I don’t think we held up our end of the bargain. That’s why he was upset. We put him in a position to get a technical, in my opinion. It never should have come down to him needing to do that.”
McCaffery, who may also have made contact with an official during his tirade, was not happy with his team’s performance during the early stages of the second half. They relied too much on the 3 ball in the second half, instead of doing what was working when the Hawkeyes built a 34-23 lead at halftime.
“Good players were taking pretty good shots,” he said. “But we didn’t anything like we did in the first half, which was work the ball side to side or try to get a better shot.
“We seemed to just not have a basket for a long time and we kept trying to get one in the first five seconds of the shot clock. That is not how you want to play against a team that is as disciplined and has as many weapons as Wisconsin has. I wasn’t happy with what we were doing there.”
Iowa point guard was 3-of-12 from the floor and finished with nine points and seven assists. He took the big shots down the stretch, but they just wouldn’t fall.
“He was real close to having a great game,” McCaffery said. “I thought a couple times he could have given it up, but he’s learning, and he’s getting better.”
Iowa turned it over just 10 times but made just 39 percent from the floor and hit six less 3-pointers than Wisconsin, who also got 14 points and two big triples from Josh Gasser. Wisconsin was 10-of-22 from long range and made 10 more free throws (25-of-35) in the win. Iowa did out-rebound the Badgers, 42-35.
Iowa will get a chance to redeem itself against Wisconsin when the Badger invade Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Feb. 22. The two teams split home games last year and the all-time series is knotted at 79-all.
“We know we’ll get a second crack at them,” Marble said. “I’m definitely looking forward to it, I’ll tell you that.”
Gabe Olaseni had eight points and six rebounds for the Hawkeyes. … Jarrod Uthoff returned to the Kohl Center for the first time since suiting up for the Badgers two years ago. He finished with six points and three rebounds in 16 minutes. … Wisconsin outscored Iowa 51-36 in the second half. … Iowa will next play at home against Northwestern on Thursday. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. Then the Hawkeyes get another crack at a conference road win. Iowa will travel to undefeated and third-ranked Ohio State on Sunday. Tip-off in Columbus, Ohio, is slated for noon.