A huge effort off the bench from unlikely sources and some timely shooting from star players gave the Wisconsin Badgers (18-10, 10-5 B1G) a huge 67-59 victory on the road at No. 8 Iowa (20-7, 11-4 B1G) on Wednesday night.
Junior stars Bronson Koenig (15) and Nigel Hayes (10) were the only players in double figures for Wisconsin, but it was the total team effort that got them over the finish line.
Eight of the nine players who saw the court scored points for the Badgers, with freshman Khalil Iverson breaking out for nine points and three of the biggest slams of the season in the Big Ten (and likely the dunk of the year in the league). He was joined by sophomore Jordan Hillâ€™s nine-point night and the bench outscored Iowa 23-4 en route to the surprise road victory.
The Badgers not only won their ninth game in 10 tries thanks to the bench, it also did it by getting Iowaâ€™s offense out of sink and its star player in early foul trouble.
Jarrod Uthoff spent much of the game on the bench in foul trouble, and finished the game with just 11 points on 3 of 12 shooting and four fouls.
Iowa came in averaging nearly 80 points per game, but were held to a season low 59 points on 33 percent shooting. Things really fell apart late for the Hawkeyes, as they shot just 26.7 percent from the field in the second half.
Peter Jok led the way in the losing effort, scoring a game high 21 points.
Wisconsin struggled to contain Jok in the first half, has he poured in 17 of Iowaâ€™s 34 points and shot 3 of 4 from three-point range. However, the Badgers were able to counter with unexpected contributions from Hill, Iverson and Brown who combined for 21 of UWâ€™s 35 points in the first half.
Turnovers more than anything contributed to the close nature of the first half, as Iowa scored nine points off seven UW turnovers to help compete with a Badger team that shot 52 percent from the field.
In a season full of scoring droughts for the Badgers, it was the host Hawkeyes that suffered through a case of the misses for a change. Iowa finished the half going 0 of 4 from the field, but it was a different field goal drought that changed the first half completely.
After going up 9-6 on a layup by Anthony Clemmons with 16:54 to play in the half, Iowa would not hit another field goal for nearly three minutes and go 0 of 5 from the field.
Wisconsin took advantage of Iowaâ€™s misfortune from the field and began to heat up on offense. The Badgers took their first lead of the game at 11-10 during Iowaâ€™s field goal drought and it was a sea-saw first half from that point forward.
Iowa never led by more than itâ€™s 5-0 start to the half, while the Badgers never led by more than four points in the first half (16-12).
Coincidentally, it was Iversonâ€™s spark off the bench that gave Wisconsin its biggest lead of the half. He started it off with an emphatic dunk to make it 13-12 with 13:42 to play in the first half and went on to score five-straight points to bring UWâ€™s lead to 16-12.
However, Iversonâ€™s personal five-point run was immediately matched by who else but Jok for the Hawkeyes. The junior guard put in a layup and then took a steal and turned it in to a triple on the other end of the court to put Iowa back on top at 17-16 with 11:06 to play.
Neither team would lead by more than a possession the rest of the half, with the lead changing hands seven times in the first half alone.
Iowa came out of the half strong, and upped the ante from its start of the contest. After starting the game on a 5-0 run, the Hawkeyes started the second half on a 7-0 run and took a 41-35 lead with 18:04 to play in the game.
Wisconsin was forced in to four empty possessions to start the second stanza, but much like the first half the Badgers answered right back with a run of their own. After going down 41-35, UW responded with a 5-0 run to take the game right back to a one-point affair.
Ultimately it came down to one team finally cracking, and that team was the host Hawkeyes. With the two teams trading the lead back-and-forth, Jok hit his lone made field goal of the second half to tie the game at 56-56 with 6:01 to play.
It would be the last time Iowa would hit a meaningful field goal and it cost the Hawkeyes in a major way.
Iowa — no field goals since 6:01 mark and two points in its last eight possessions.
— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) February 25, 2016
Wisconsin didnâ€™t light it up on the offensive end either, but a pair of made three pointers from Hayes and Koenig along with timely made free throws gave the visitors all the edge needed.
The victory keeps the Badgersâ€™ slim Big Ten title hopes alive, as Indiana is the lone team with just three losses in conference play. Currently five teams sit within two losses or less of the Big Ten lead, and Wisconsin will host Michigan next hoping to maintain its hopes for the NCAA tournament.